May 11, 2021

Family Visiting Clarification at Glens Falls

Some families are still unable to visit their loved ones in nursing homes, and have reached out to CBS6 to express their frustration.

CBS6 dug into the NYS DOH guidelines, to break down the restrictions.

A spokesperson for the NYS Department of Health wrote to CBS6 \"On March 25, DOH issued revised visitation guidance to align with federal CMS guidelines permitting visitation for all residents in nursing homes with limited exceptions. As a result, all nursing homes statewide are currently eligible to reopen to visitors – while still protecting their residents from this deadly virus.\"

The guidance states visitation can be handled based on the facility’s structure, as long as COVID safety protocols – like screening, masks, disinfecting, and more – are used. The guidance also states facilities should allow indoor visitation at all times and for all residents (regardless of vaccination status), with limited exceptions like transmission rate.

And guidance states, when there is a new case of COVID-19 among residents or staff, the nursing home should immediately begin testing and suspend all visitation. Visitation can resume when the extent of the exposure is determined.

We spoke with Marty Deslauriers, the Administrator at Glens Falls Nursing & Rehabilitation. He says each scenario is handled on a case-by-case basis with the Department of Health. They may need to shut down one unit, or the whole facility.

“Every case is individualized to that person and to the amount of exposure that that individual has had.” Deslauriers said. “If the facility is able to do appropriate contact tracing and identify that this staff member only worked on one unit and with a certain number of individuals, then it can be more specific and say, ok that unit will be closed down, for this two week period of time. But if we know the staff member didn’t expose the whole building, then the rest of the building can safely do visitation.”

He says nursing homes do have some flexibility.

“Everything we do is in the confines of that regulation, but I would say that regulation is very broad.” Delauriers said. “It is up to us as administration to look at our facility and say – when can we safely take in these visitors? When are we best equipped to handle extra folks inside the building to ensure we’re providing an environment that’s safe, social distancing, staffing, etc?”

He said one bright spot in the guidance, is that it allows full-contact for vaccinated residents and family members. At the Glens Falls Center, Deslauriers said he has one visitation area for vaccinated people who can sit together and hug, and a different area for non-vaccinated residents who must keep their distance from visitors. He says having separate areas helps them logistically.

MORE: Some mothers in nursing homes spend day without visitors for second year in a row

The guidance also states “outdoor visitation is preferred even when the resident and visitor are fully vaccinated* against COVID-19”. But Deslauriers says they offer both inside and outside as an option to families. “I really think nursing homes should be able to accommodate both, because you always have weather that plays against you.” he said. “We certainly understand we need to accommodate whatever is best for our residents and their loved ones.”

CBS6 has heard from families that are frustrated that the facility is shutdown, and they’re not allowed to visit, even though they and the resident are fully vaccinated.

“We get that all the time too. It is frustrating when one person is exposed and the whole unit is shut down.” Deslauriers said. He says the DOH is being overly cautious because he says the vaccine is not a “cure” for COVID. “The last thing that we want as a nursing home, and the last thing the DOH wants is for any COVID to come back into the facility.”

Deslauriers acknowledges that the visitation restrictions are frustrating. But he says they’re in a better position now, compared to last year when everything was shutdown. He says the revised guidance is a step in the right direction.


As seen on WRGB Albany.

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