A man with a mask walks past a sign advertising the Sapphire Center nursing home after reports of a number of deaths there came to light during an ongoing outbreak of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in the Brooklyn borough of New York, U.S., April 17, 2020. REUTERS/Lucas Jackson

New York State will soon allow families to make indoor visits to relatives in nursing homes, if infection rates in the county remain below 5 percent, without a testing requirement.

State Health Commissioner Howard Zucker outlined that while tests are not mandatory for families to see loved ones in nursing homes, it is recommended. But testing for counties with an infection rate of 5 to 10 percent, family members will need to have a negative Covid-19 test within 72 hours. If the infection rate of a county is higher than 10 percent, only compassion care visits will be allowed.

“We’re trying to make sure we don’t overwhelm the nursing homes,” Zucker said. “We’re working with the 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.”

The change in policy comes nearly a year after state officials suspended nursing home visits to curb the spread of coronavirus. It also comes weeks after the state attorney general issued a report finding that Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s office undercounted nursing home deaths and the governor’s top aide apologized to state legislators for withholding nursing home death toll data.

If visitors have had two doses of the vaccine and it has been 14 days since their last shot, there will be no need to test, according to Zucker, but it is still encouraged on the belief that an individual could still be carrying it in their nasal passage.

Mask wearing will still be a requirement and this policy will go into effect on Friday, Feb. 26. But the number of visitors to the nursing home must not exceed 20 percent of the resident population at any time, officials said. The state health department guidance for nursing home visitation can be found here.

-With Timothy Bolger. This story first appeared on amny.com

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