The waiting period for visiting a nursing home has been eased by state health officials on Tuesday amid a push from families members who want better access to their loved ones.

The Department of Health announced the waiting period for a facility to be open to visitors would be reduced from 28 days to 14 days. The new guideline will take effect on Thursday. About 500 nursing homes out of 613 facilities will be eligible for visitation once the change is made.

“We understand how trying it has been for New Yorkers to not see their loved ones and the challenges they’ve had to endure during this unprecedented pandemic," said State Health Commissioner Dr. Howard Zucker.

"The number of nursing homes that have taken the necessary steps to protect residents from the asymptomatic spread of COVID-19 while working to reopen to outside visitors, shows that adhering to the DOH visitation guideline is the smart and cautious approach to allowing visitations.  We continue to be guided by science and concern for residents’ welfare and will monitor nursing homes that host visitors, to make sure this action does not lead to an increase in cases.”

Nursing home visitors will still be under strict guidelines for screening and temperature checks. The number of visitors at any given time must not exceed 10% of the resident census at any given time, and only two visitors per resident are allowed at a given time. 

The facilities have come under scrutiny during the pandemic after at least 6,300 residents have died of COVID-19. The death toll is likely higher, given the state does not include people who have died in hospitals as part of that tally.