By KATHLEEN MOORE
The Post-Star, and the Enterprise and Telegram staffs
Visitation can resume at most nursing homes in the area, state Health Commissioner Dr. Howard Zucker announced Friday afternoon.
Any home that has not had a coronavirus case in the past 28 days can allow two visitors per resident, Zucker said in a news release. Nursing homes and long-term care facilities must send their visitation plan to the state before they begin allowing visitors.
Only 10% of the residents will be allowed visitors in any one day. Each visitor must be checked for fever, wear a face covering and socially distance during the visit. Children are allowed, but only one at a time.
State Assemblymen Billy Jones and Dan Stec issued statements applauding the move. Both said they know the past four months have been hard on nursing home residents and their familes because they have heard appeals from many of them.
“(Friday’s) announcement from New York State Department of Health Commissioner Dr. Howard Zucker is welcome news for the thousands of North Country residents who have been longing to safely visit their loved ones; they now have a light at the end of the tunnel,” Jones said in an email statement.
“With the knowledge we now have about how COVID-19 came into nursing homes — mainly through asymptomatic staff and visitors through no fault of their own — it is critical that as we resume visitations to these facilities we do it in a smart and cautious way to ensure the health and safety of residents and staff,” Zucker said. “We will continue to closely monitor the situation in each facility, and make adjustments based on the facts and data moving forward. I know how painful it has been for residents of these facilities to endure such a long period of time without seeing family and loved ones, and my hope is that this adjustment to the visitation policy will provide some comfort to everyone.”
Coronavirus swept through portions of Fort Hudson in Fort Edward, The Pines in Glens Falls and Glens Falls Center in Queensbury. In each facility, the first case was a worker who was contagious before showing symptoms.
At Fort Hudson, 10 residents died in three weeks. The virus struck a ward for people with Alzheimer’s, and all of them caught it. Out of 42 people, 30 recovered, 11 died of coronavirus, and one died of natural causes. That’s a fatality rate of 27%.
At Glens Falls Center, 20 residents died of the virus and 55 recovered. That was also a fatality rate of 27%.
At The Pines, seven residents died. At least 20 people had the virus, but officials never confirmed a total number of people infected. It was spreading widely through a floor than had 39 occupied beds.
But in the last month, none of the nursing homes have reported a coronavirus death, although the family of one resident at the Pines said she died of complications related to surviving coronavirus.
Franklin and Essex counties have not yet recorded any COVID-19 deaths, including at their multiple nursing homes. One staff member at Mercy Living Center in Tupper Lake tested positive but then shortly afterward tested negative. An employee at The Alice Center nursing home in Malone tested positive on June 17 but has since recovered.