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DOH Issues Revised ACF Visitation Guidance

On July 8th, the Department of Health (DOH) issued updated guidance for adult care facilities (ACFs) regarding visitation, communal dining, and activities. The guidance continues to stress the provider’s responsibility to adhere to and ensure compliance with the core principles of infection control. We encourage members to review the guidance carefully but provide the below summary of the changes and clarifications.

  • Effective immediately, facilities may restart communal activities and dining but must first develop policies and procedures regarding infection control consistent with current Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) assisted living guidance. Currently, CDC recommendations allow for residents to have close contact and not wear masks if all residents participating in the activity are fully vaccinated. Additionally, fully vaccinated residents can participate in communal dining without social distancing or masks. Unvaccinated residents must maintain six feet of distance from others, and all other residents must wear masks when not dining (e.g., when coming to and leaving the dining room).
  • The guidance distinguishes enhanced assisted living residences (EALRs) and assisted living programs (ALPs) as health care facilities, which, like nursing homes, must continue to follow New York State and CDC COVID-19 guidance and wear masks. Staff in all other ACFs should adhere to the core principles of infection control to protect the health and safety of both fully vaccinated and unvaccinated residents but do not have to follow the mask rules that apply to health care settings. UNVACCINATED STAFF MUST WEAR MASKS.
  • Each ACF is required to have appropriate policies and procedures in place that respect residents’ rights and address infection control and prevention when residents leave the facility for outings. We construe this guidance to apply to both outings with loved ones and those planned and facilitated by the provider.
  • ACFs should consider how the number of visitors per resident at any one time and the total number of visitors in the facility at any one time may affect the provider’s ability to ensure proper infection control strategies and requirements.
  • The guidance provides information regarding the implementation of the personal caregiver visitor and compassionate caregiver regulations. With the conclusion of the public health emergency (PHE), aspects of those regulations do not need to be implemented, as visitation is generally no longer restricted. However, all ACFs and nursing homes must develop policies and procedures and must document the resident’s wishes regarding the designation of at least two personal caregiver and at least two compassionate caregiver visitors in the event of a future PHE. These designations should be revisited upon admission and then every six months with each resident and documented.
  • Compassionate care visits remain an option, however, regardless of the conclusion of the PHE and should be evaluated on a case-by-case basis.

LeadingAge NY is pleased to see that many of the issues we had been seeking clarification on have been addressed in this update. At the same time, we appreciate that some of the recommendations are challenging to implement. Please let us know if you have any questions regarding the guidance, and we will continue to provide you with any further clarifications.

Contact: Diane Darbyshire, ddarbyshire@leadingageny.org, 518-867-8828