Dear Residents, Families and Friends of Kirkhaven,

We are aware of the New York State Department of Health announcement on September 15, 2020 regarding new guidelines around Limited Visitation for facilities without COVID-19 for at Least 14 Days. We are reviewing these new guidelines in detail and are seeking further clarification from the New York State Department of Health based on our current visitation status. We are anticipating resuming limited visitation under the new guidance on Monday, October 5th. We will be revising our in-person visitation plan to ensure every precaution is taken to maintain resident, staff and family safety. When we have an approved plan based on these new guidelines we will communicate the specifics to our residents, staff, and families.

The new guidance requires a negative test for ALL visitors within 7 days of a visit. This is required regardless of indoor or outdoor visits. NYS DOH will be issuing additional guidance for end-of-life or compassionate care visits to clarify the testing requirements for these type of visits. We are understanding that these visitors will NOT need to be tested in advance of the visit.

Visitors will be responsible for providing the facility with a copy of a negative COVID-19 result. It is unclear if the 7 day timeframe required is from the date of test collection or the date of test results. We are waiting further direction on this specific requirement from NYS DOH. Health screenings and temperature checks upon entry to the facility remains a requirement. The facility is not obligated to test residents’ visitors. Unfortunately, due to limited resources we are unable to offer testing of visitors. The availability of testing supplies, processing times and criteria for testing continue to evolve both nationally and locally. We must continue to prioritize resident and staff testing and have adequate testing supplies to meet required testing.

We understand and share your frustration and concerns of not being able to visit your loved one over the last several months. We encourage you to call the Governor’s office today and tomorrow and urge the State to take a more reasonable approach to family visitation in nursing homes. The Governor’s office can be reached at this phone number: 1-518-474-8390. We encourage you to speak from your heart and explain what your experience and frustrations have been.

We also recommend that you use the following talking points to inform the Governor’s office on your phone calls:
• Due to your overly strict rules on visitation in nursing homes, I have not seen my loved one since _____.
• Now in order to visit, I must provide proof of a negative COVID-19 test result repeatedly.
• These repeated tests are not readily accessible to me and will be cost-prohibitive.
• Nursing home residents have endured months of isolation from the people they love most and are experiencing emotional distress.
• I urge you to reconsider this guidance and find a more balanced approach that considers not just the risks of COVID-19, but also the emotional isolation residents are feeling.

In addition to this new guidance from NY State, new Federal regulations were issued recently regarding long term care facility testing requirements for residents and staff. Facilities are now required to test residents and staff based on parameters and a frequency set forth by the Health and Human Services Secretary. Upon identification of a single new case of COVID-19 infection (one case is defined as an outbreak) in any staff or residents, ALL staff and residents should be tested, and all staff and residents that tested negative should be retested every 3 days to 7 days until testing identifies no new cases of COVID-19 infection among staff or residents for a period of at least 14 days since the most recent positive result. In the event of a positive COVID-19 case, visitation will be suspended for at least 14 days.

Routine testing of staff continues on a weekly basis in accordance with Governor Cuomo’s extended executive orders. Routine testing of residents is not recommended unless prompted by a change in circumstances, such as the identification of a confirmed COVID-19 case in the facility.

Residents (or resident representatives) may exercise their right to decline COVID-19 testing. If outbreak testing has been triggered and an asymptomatic resident refuses testing, the resident will be placed on transmission based precautions (TBP) until the criteria for discontinuing these precautions have been met. Additional health screenings and monitoring will be conducted to ensure the resident maintains appropriate distance from other residents, wears a face covering and practices effective hand hygiene until the procedures for outbreak testing have been completed.

As part of our Pandemic Emergency Plan (PEP), we will be providing weekly status updates on our website identifying the number of infections and deaths at the facility. As of today, Kirkhaven has zero COVID-19 positive resident or staff cases and zero COVID-19 related deaths have occurred at the facility. In the event of a COVID-19 positive resident case, we will update residents, authorized family members and responsible parties of any resident or staff member infection, as we are required to do so via phone calls, email and US mail for those who do not have email or internet access.

We continue to offer end-of-life visits as well as balcony, Facetime or Zoom visits as scheduled with our social work and nursing team members.

We look forward to welcoming visitors back to Kirkhaven soon!

Anne R. Gallese