A bill that could lead to family members having increased access to their loved ones for routine and compassionate care was signed into law Monday evening by Gov. Andrew Cuomo.
The measure's final approval comes days after Cuomo and Health Commissioner Howard Zucker said New York had eased its restrictions for nursing home visits as more residents, staff and their family members are vaccinated.
Not all families have been able to enter nursing homes just yet, however, more than a year after visiting restrictions were put in place. State lawmakers had still urged Cuomo to sign the measure, hoping to codify the new order in the process.
The new law will have state health officials develop regulations to allow personal caregiving visitation as well as compassionate care visitation and end-of-life support.
Families with loved ones in nursing homes had been separated from them for more than a year in order to limit spread of COVID-19 in the facilities. More than 15,000 residents of nursing homes and long-term care facilities have died during the pandemic.
"In many cases, family members prior to the ban regularly provided care for their loved one, assisting with feeding, bathing, dressing, communication and other essential activities of daily living," lawmakers wrote in a memo backing the measure. "These family members-some of them on a daily basis for years-functioned as de facto 'staff,' augmenting the care and support provided by regular staff. We know that nursing home aides are too often stretched thin under the best of circumstances; during the pandemic, their numbers and capacity have been even lower, exacerbating the challenge of adequately meeting residents' needs."
State lawmakers approved the bill earlier this year along with a package of nursing home-related measures as the facilities and went occurred inside them during the pandemic have come under increasing scrutiny.
The Cuomo administration is under a federal investigation over how those fatalities were reported and whether an undercount occurred for much of last year. Cuomo has apologized for initially holding the complete data back, but has insisted no undercount of deaths occurred.