Visitors to New York state nursing homes will no longer be required to show a negative COVID-19 test in order to gain entry to the facilities, state Department of Health officials on Friday announced. 

The updated guidance for nursing homes in the state is meant to align with federal policies that no longer require a negative COVID-19 test result. 

Health officials in a statement said the new guidance, backed by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services policies, will help people visit their loved ones.

“Enabling families to visit their loved ones safely remains a priority for the Department of Health,” Acting State Health Commissioner Dr. James McDonald said. “Our new guidance aligns with CMS guidance and recommends that facilities use passive screening, which includes providing visitor and staff education on COVID-19 signs and symptoms, and post  instructional signage throughout the facility.“

Nursing homes and long-term care facilities were under scrutiny during the early months of the COVID-19 pandemic, with residents being considered uniquely vulnerable to the virus. 

Still, health offiicals continued to urge people to take proper precautions that fall under "passing screening" such as monitoring symptoms and potentially wearing a face mask, as well as hand washing. 

Nursing homes will also still be required to post COVID health guidance at entances for visitors, according to the new guidance. 

“Improving the quality of life for aging New Yorkers includes making sure they have visits from family and friends,” DOH Deputy Commissioner for Aging and Long-Term Care Adam Herbst said. “For those who call these facilities home, this new guidance supports our effort to  make visitation more accommodating, while keeping residents and staff safe.”

State lawmakers this year want to expand oversight of nursing homes and there have been calls for more funding for an ombudsman program in order to boost visitations at the facilities.