After months of deadly outbreaks that gave rise to nearly a third of all coronavirus-related deaths in New York state, Governor Andrew Cuomo finally reversed a state order Saturday, requiring nursing homes and other long-term care facilities to take COVID-19 positive patients.
Last week, state authorities identified an additional, unreported 1,700 coronavirus deaths that took place in the state’s nursing homes but went uncounted in the state’s official death toll for a variety of reasons. The new report, released last Monday, showed that “at least 4,813 residents with confirmed or presumed cases of COVID-19 have died at 351 of New York’s 613 nursing homes since March 1, according to Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s administration’s new list,” according to Time Magazine.
Those deaths likely stem from a New York regulation requiring nursing homes to accept COVID-positive patients after they’d been released from the hospital or face the wrath of the state. Federal laws require those same patients to be quarantined away from the general population, but many of the facilities that took in those recovering from the coronavirus — many of whom may have still been contagious — did not have the staff or the means to take necessary precautions or the resources to conduct regular testing of both patients and caregivers.
On Sunday, Cuomo reassured New Yorkers that the state would no longer send coronavirus-positive patients to nursing facilities, “revers[ing] his March 25 directive forcing nursing homes to readmit residents who were treated at a hospital for COVID19. Those residents can only come back if the[y] test negative for the virus,” according to reporter Zack Fink.
“Now, ‘we’re just not going to send a person who is positive to a nursing home after a hospital visit,’ Cuomo said Sunday,” per ABC News. “He said such patients would be accommodated elsewhere, suggesting they could be directed to sites originally set up as temporary hospitals.”
Cuomo also released a new set of nursing home regulations, telling Twitter that, “All nursing home staff must now be tested for COVID twice a week. This rule is not optional — it’s mandatory.”
NEW: All nursing home staff must now be tested for COVID twice a week.
⁰This rule is not optional — it’s mandatory.
— Andrew Cuomo (@NYGovCuomo) May 10, 2020
In a speech, he also acknowledged that nursing homes are breeding grounds for the novel coronavirus. Nursing homes, of course, serve the elderly — already the population most at risk from dying from COVID-19 — as well as those suffering from long term, often debilitating, physical and mental illnesses.
“This virus uses nursing homes,” he said. “They are ground zero. They’re the vulnerable population in the vulnerable location.”
Across the country, The New York Times reported Saturday, a third of all coronavirus-related deaths have taken place in nursing homes and other long-term care facilities serving adults. More than 150,000 people — both residents and caregivers — have been infected at more than 77,000 facilities nationwide.
‘While just 11 percent of the country’s cases have occurred in long-term care facilities, deaths related to Covid-19 in these facilities account for more than a third of the country’s pandemic fatalities,” the NYT reported. “The share of deaths tied to long-term care facilities for older adults is even more stark at the state level. In 15 states, the number of residents and workers who have died accounts for more than half of all deaths from the virus.”
The situation tracks closely with that in Europe, where nearly 50% of all coronavirus deaths were people living in long-term residential and nursing care facilities, according to Business Insider.
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