Thomas Flavin, left, talks to his wife, Elfriede Flavin, on his cell phone through a window at Samaritan Keep Home in Watertown back in March. Families will soon be able to visit their loved ones in nursing homes and long-term care facilities throughout the state after being canceled due to COVID-19. Sydney Schaefer/Watertown Daily Times

Families will soon once again be able to visit their loved ones in nursing homes and long-term care facilities throughout the state.

State Department of Health Commissioner Dr. Howard A. Zucker announced Friday nursing homes and long-term care facilities in New York can begin limited visitations.

Nursing homes and long-term care facilities have been closed to the public since the coronavirus pandemic began in March. All nursing homes and long-term care facilities must submit plans to the state health department before visits can begin.

Residents in nursing home and long-term care facilities only will be allowed just two visitors at a time, according to the state health department. Visitors must undergo temperature checks, wear face coverings and socially distance during the visit. At least one of the two visitors must be at least 18 years of age or older.

The limited visits can only occur at facilities that have been without COVID-19 for at least 28 days, a threshold set by the federal Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, according to a state health department press statement.

Stacey Cannizzo, vice president of clinical and quality services for United Helpers Rehabilitation and Senior Care, said its nursing home facilities in Canton and Ogdensburg will offer visits between residents and loved ones starting on Thursday.

“Our residents are very excited,” she said. “It’s been a long time since they’ve been able to visit with their families.”

Families will be notified how to schedule a visit. Staff will make sure that visitors are complying with mask wearing and other requirements imposed by the state before they can see their loved ones. The visits will be outdoors at both of the United Helpers facilities.

The visits can begin on Thursday because United Helpers already submitted the plans to the state; the plan must be available on-site to see them if the state health department visits.

Samaritan Medical Center spokesperson Leslie M. DiStefano said the visits will only be for outdoors, not inside Samaritan Summit Village and the Samaritan Keep Home.

Administrators at Samaritan Keep and Summit Village intend to submit plans to the state on Thursday, but it will be some time before the visits can start, she said.

“There’s quite a bit to it,” she said.

Outdoor visits have been occurring at Summit Village with loved ones sitting in a courtyard and their family members or friends on the other side of a fence. But once the state-approved outdoor visits begin, two visitors at a time can join the resident in the courtyard for visits, Ms. DiStefano said.

Residents at Samaritan Keep have only been able to visit their loved ones through windows. Once the state approves Samaritan’s plan, outdoor visits can begin at Samaritan Keep.

Only 10 percent of residents at facilities across the state can have a visitor each day. For example, the 288-bed Summit Village can have 28 visitors per day, while 27 people can see loved ones at Samaritan Keep, which has 272 beds.

Ten people can visit the United Helpers Canton facility a day, while 18 can the Ogdensburg home.

The health department will make adjustments to the visitation policy to ensure the health and safety of residents, staff and visitors.

If the visits were able to resume now, the two Samaritan operated facilities would have to wait to complete the 28-day window because a staff member at Summit Village tested positive for COVID on June 19 and another employee at the Samaritan Keep Home on June 25.

According to a news release, Claxton-Hepburn Medical Center in Ogdensburg has established protocols that all visitors must comply with or they will not be permitted an in-person visit. Besides the state requirements, visitors must go through screening questions and provide contact information or they will not be allowed to participate in the visits.

“Claxton-Hepburn Medical Center understands the COVID-19 pandemic is affecting the lives of our patients and their loved ones in unprecedented ways,” according to the statement.

Johnson Newspapers 7.1

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