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Limited visitors will be allowed at 16 hospitals in New York under a new two-week pilot program that was announced by Gov. Andrew Cuomo on Tuesday.
It was not immediately clear if visitors will be allowed across all wards in the hospitals, but they will be subject to symptom and temperature checks before entering, and issued mandatory personal protective equipment to be worn once inside.
The 16 hospitals include locations in Nassau, Suffolk, Manhattan, Bronx, Brooklyn, Queens, Erie, Onondaga, Westchester, Otsego, and Albany. He said the program was developed in coordination with the Greater New York Hospital Association (GNYHA) and the Healthcare Association of New York State (HANYS).
“This is getting visitors back into hospitals with the right precaution, with the right equipment, but it is terrible to have someone in the hospital, and then that person is isolated, not being able to see their family and friends,” Cuomo said. “I understand the health reasons for that, we were afraid of the virus spread, but this is a pilot project to see if we can bring visitors in and do it safely.”
He also announced that Long Island’s Nassau County would be eligible to resume elective surgeries.
New York banned most hospital visitation back in March, except for a support person for labor and delivery patients and a support person for pediatric patients. According to the state’s department of health, exceptions were also made when they were deemed medically necessary or essential to the care of the patient, or for family members or legal representatives of patients in imminent end-of-life situations.
Dozens of others followed suit, leading to staff nationwide to facilitate video calls and other technological measures for patients who were hospitalized alone. In many instances, health care workers replaced relatives who could not be with loved ones during their final moments.
New York has seen over 350,000 cases of coronavirus, with more than 22,600 deaths. The state’s nursing homes have been hit particularly hard, as Cuomo faces mounting criticism over a policy that required facilities to accept patients infected with COVID-19 after they were discharged from the hospitals but were still recovering and in need of care. Critics say the policy exposed an already-vulnerable population to the virus and overwhelmed an already-strained system.
The state, along with New Jersey, which has the second-highest death toll in the U.S., also allowed health care workers at long-term care facilities who tested positive for the virus to return to work just seven days later, even without a second test to ensure the infection had cleared.
Cuomo has since revised the policy and New York now requires all workers at care homes be tested twice per week.