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DOH Provides Update on Nursing Home Visitor Testing Requirements

On Jan. 14th, LeadingAge NY participated in a brief call with Department of Health (DOH) staff to discuss the nursing home visitor testing requirements set forth in a Dear Administrator Letter (DAL) issued on Jan. 12th. We submitted the questions that members raised prior to the call, and we emphasized the staffing crisis that members all are experiencing and the operational challenges these requirements present. The DOH staff were sympathetic to our concerns and said that they want to work collaboratively to identify solutions. They provided the following information:

  • Effective Date: The visitor testing requirements are currently in effect.
  • Duration of the Requirements: This is a temporary requirement due to the Omicron surge. It will be reevaluated as conditions change.
  • Test Kits: The Department has shipped additional test kits to nursing homes and will continue to do so as supply allows.
    • Nursing homes may send several test kits home with regular visitors for use prior to visiting. They may also urge visitors to come to the facility prior to visiting to pick up a kit to be used at home immediately prior to their visit.
  • Verification of Results:
    • DOH seems to be allowing some flexibility on the method of verification. They said that visitors may display a photo of their test cartridge or strip to a nursing home staff member. Nursing homes may use a checklist with a visitor attestation. Although not entirely clear, it seems that a staff member should view the photo (or the actual test cartridge) in combination with the attestation. DOH recognizes that this is essentially an honor system.
    • The monitoring of visitors’ test results must occur 24/7.
    • If a visitor tests positive outside the building, they should not return to the building to display the positive result.
  • Positive Results and Infection within Prior 90 Days:
    • If a visitor tests positive, they should be excluded until they meet the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) criteria for discontinuing isolation for the general public (i.e., currently for five days) and present a negative test.
    • If a visitor has had COVID-19 in the past 90 days, they must still be tested. If they test positive, they must be excluded.
  • Staffing Support:
    • We asked DOH to allow nursing homes to require scheduling of visits or limiting hours. They said that they would consider that. We also asked them to deploy National Guard or other staff support to nursing homes to screen visitors. They said that they would consider it.
    • Nursing homes may provide visitors with “preferred” hours for visitation, as long as they do not prohibit visitors during other hours.
  • Staff Booster Shot Mandate:
    • We asked for more information about when this mandate would take effect and stressed that facilities need a great deal of advance notice. DOH staff said that more guidance would be coming on booster shots.
  • Entertainers: Entertainers visiting the facility are subject to the testing requirement.
  • Although we had posed additional questions to DOH, only the above issues were addressed.

Please contact LeadingAge NY if you have any questions or concerns.