Rules revealed for statewide reopening

The Enterprise — Michael Koff

“Things are starting to open up,” said Albany County Executive Daniel McCoy at his Monday morning press briefing.

ALBANY COUNTY — The state is starting to open various sectors of its economy as COVID-19 infection and hospitalization rates decline from the post-holiday high.

“Things are starting to open up,” said Albany County Executive Daniel McCoy at his Monday morning press briefing.

He said he was happy to see last week’s announcements that indoor amusement centers can open on March 26 at 25-percent capacity and outdoor amusement parks can open April 9 at 33-percent capacity.

He also said there “will be so much joy” when nursing home residents can have visitors.

While some families and friends visited residents by gesturing through windows, McCoy noted nursing home residents haven’t been able to see visitors face to face for a year.

He said the county was waiting for guidance from the state’s health department. Some of that guidance was provided at the governor’s press conference later on Monday.

Movie theaters in New York City will be brought in line with the rest of the state at 25-percent capacity, weddings and catered events can be held at 50-percent capacity, billiard halls — having won a lawsuit — can reopen statewide at 50-percent capacity, and nursing homes will be open to visitors.

“We’re announcing a number of reopenings, watching the valve and the infection rate and the meters,” said Governor Andrew Cuomo.

On New York City’s movie theaters, he said, they will function at 25-percent capacity, with no more than 50 people per screening. “Masks, assigned seating, social distancing, staff to control occupancy, traffic, and seating to ensure compliance,” he said, adding they must also follow enhanced air-filtration standards.

Catered events, starting March 15, can have up to 150 people and all patrons must be tested before the event. “Anyone who wants to get married, no excuses,” said Cuomo. “Venues must notify the local health department in advance, masks required at all times except with seating, eating or drinking, guidelines for ceremonial and socially distanced dancing.”

Billiard and pool halls can open at 50-percent capacity with masks required unless patrons are seated and eating or drinking with mandatory social distancing and physical barriers between parties.


Nursing home visits

Throughout the state, all nursing home residents and staff have been offered vaccines. Starting on Friday, Feb. 26, nursing home residents can have visitors as long as protocols are followed.

Cuomo said the protocols follow guidelines from the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services.

New York’s health commissioner, Howard Zucker, outlined four main points at Monday’s press briefing.

First, he said, the rate of infection in the county where the nursing home is located will determine testing requirements for visitors. For counties with an infection rate below 5 percent, no COVID-19 testing is required but it is encouraged.

For counties with infection rates between 5 and 10 percent, a visitor must be tested within 72 hours. “The testing can be either through a PCR test, a binex test, rapid test and we can give the nursing homes the assistance to do them,” said Zucker.

If a nursing home is in a county with an infection rate greater than 10 percent, no visitors will be allowed except for “compassionate care,” said Zucker. Visits will also be restricted if there have been COVID-19 cases in the home within 14 days.

Second, Zucker said, if a visitor has waited 14 days from getting the second dose of a vaccine and is still within 90 days of that second dose, no test is required. However, testing is still encouraged, he said, “because you can still have it in your nasal passage.”

Third, the most visitors that a nursing home will be allowed is 20 percent of residents at one time. “Obviously,” Zucker said, “the next day you can have other visitors for other residents, but we’re trying to make sure we don’t overwhelm the nursing homes.”

Fourth, he said, the state’s health department is working with nursing homes “to make sure that they either have a separate room or the visitor is alone in their room at that point in time.”

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