We feel greatly for the families of those residing in the Clinton County Nursing Home who can't visit their loved ones on their terms.
We also understand the efforts of the nursing home administration to keep residents and staff as safe as possible as we endure what we hope are the final months, weeks and days of COVID-19.
This is about as tough an issue as we've seen during the COVID-19 pandemic, which has lagged on for more than a year.
We are hopeful that steps to reach an agreement between the families and the nursing home are in motion.
The pandemic has disrupted lives across the globe these past 14-plus months, infecting and killing millions upon millions.
In this country alone, nearly 600,000 people have died from the virus, and in our tri-county region, a total of 76 people have died.
COVID-19 has penetrated just about every aspect of life, canceling events, forcing schools to go to remote learning, necessitating mask-wearing and social distancing, and restricting visits at hospitals and nursing homes, among other impacts.
As congregate living settings, nursing homes were hot spots for COVID-19, especially in the early days of the pandemic and during the second wave over the winter holidays. Devastating outbreaks spread fast, killing many.
The nursing home issue has been especially big news in this state where Gov. Andrew Cuomo has come under serious fire both for his order to have COVID-sick patients return to nursing homes from hospitals in late March of 2020 and an apparent cover-up of the true number of COVID deaths among nursing home residents.
The matter is being investigated by the state and there have been calls for Cuomo to resign.
In our region, we saw 16 residents of the Essex Center, a private nursing home in Essex County, die from COVID after an outbreak last summer.
Needless to say, nursing homes have been ground zero for COVID in many communities.
Thus, we understand the restrictive policies in place at the Clinton County Nursing Home. Administrator Wendie Bishop appears to be doing her level best to abide by current state and federal regulations and best practices to keep residents and staff safe.
It is worth noting that, according to Bishop, just three County Nursing Home residents have tested positive for COVID throughout the whole pandemic, and none have succumbed to the disease.
The pandemic isn't over and the risk of nursing homes getting infected remains real, so extra precautions are not unreasonable.
But families of residents believe the restrictions are too much. At a recent County Legislature meeting, several complained about the nursing home, saying they should be able to have visits longer than 15 minutes and in private.
At the top of their concerns was also a lack of communication between themselves and the administration. They claimed that dozens of phone calls and emails have gone unreturned, exacerbating their frustration.
That is a concern that the nursing home needs to address.
As with most issues, two sides can usually reach an agreement if they talk. That can't happen if phone calls and emails are not responded to.
Even if the two parties cannot come to total agreement, we need to see both a willingness to listen and people feeling that they have been heard.
We believe some kind of arrangement can be reached here if the administration and residents' families, perhaps aided by the legislature, can put their heads together.
Perhaps some restrictions can be loosened, but families have to also remember that the rules are in place for the safety of their loved ones and they are not punitive.
Hopefully we will reach a day soon where COVID-19 restrictions are a thing of the past, but until then, we need patience, understanding and compassion on all sides.