October 21, 2021

Cuomo gives nursing homes OK to open

Assisted Living/Nursing Home Stock Image

Nursing homes across the state may finally see visitors today — but not the Elizabeth Brewster House in Homer.

Brewster and other assisted living facilities statewide can’t open until they get direction, which was supposed to come when Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced Monday that nursing homes could accept visitors, said Michael Kilmer, the director of the Elizabeth Brewster House.

But assisted living facilities were never mentioned.

“I’m not exactly sure what the intent is of the governor at this point,” Kilmer said.

Cortland County’s COVID-19 positivity rate is 2.9%, which is below the needed 5% for nursing homes to open without proof of a negative COVID-19 test. Although testing is widely encouraged, it is not required, the governor said.

Since the pandemic began, 39 people in Cortland County nursing homes have died, but none in assisted living facilities.

“Thanks to the dedication of New Yorkers, we’re now at a point where we can begin to expand nursing home visitations under strict guidelines to protect the health and safety of residents,” Cuomo said.

For family members like Dryden resident Tom Corey, whose 104-year-old mother lives at the Elizabeth Brewster House, the lack of news for assisted living facilities is devastating.

“During the last year, I’ve been able to see her face to face about five times,” Corey said. “Prior to COVID, I would see her a couple of times a week.”

The family has had several window visits and Zoom visits, but nothing compares to seeing her in person, Corey said. Despite being fully vaccinated, he is still not allowed inside the facility.

“She is completely healthy, I am completely healthy, we’ve both been immunized but we haven’t had any face-to-face contact,” Corey said. “There is no medical reason not to have contact with her but for whatever reason, there is no way they (Brewster House) can get the protocols changed to see each other and it’s really tragic.”

When Corey can hug his mother again, he said it will be a very joyous event.

In the interim, the Brewster House is doing everything it can to keep their residents safe and reunite families, Kilmer said.

Corey can take his mother to routine doctor’s appointments but he couldn’t celebrate her 104th birthday. Mary Jane Corey has lived in Cortland County since 1949 and while the Brewster House celebrated with her, family and other friends could not, Tom Corey said.

No one close could share her joy of a spring bus trip across upstate New York, and her family could only fret from a distance at other times.

“She fell out of bed and ended up in the emergency room, she was fine, but that was a lot of fun because I got to talk to her for a long time,” Corey said. “There are events in life you think you would hate that end up being the most joyous.”