By: Ilana Siyance
On Sunday May 10th, Governor Andrew Cuomo announced that moving forward New York State nursing homes must test all staff members for Coronavirus twice-weekly. To further protect the elderly and immunocompromised at nursing homes, COVID-19 patients leaving hospitals will no longer be sent to nursing homes. The governor also said residents at nursing facilities will be tested as much as possible. The initiatives are being introduced after a spike in deaths at the nursing homes and resulting criticism over the nursing facility outbreak debacle.
As reported by the Associated Press, in the United States there have been approximately 26,000 coronavirus deaths in nursing homes and long-term care facilities, a disproportionate one-fifth, or roughly 5,300, of those deaths were in New York. Though many states have had difficulty controlling the highly-contagious novel virus in nursing homes, New York’s deaths in nursing homes were the highest in number as well as percentage, proving them among the worst breeding grounds for the infectious disease.
Health care watchdogs, lawmakers and relatives of nursing home patients have blamed the state for not doing enough to mitigate the threat of COVID-19 for patients in nursing homes. Critics also say NYS delayed the release of the number of deaths in individual nursing facilities by weeks, and for still not releasing the number of actual cases of coronavirus. They say the initiatives, namely to require extensive testing in the homes, come too late in the game. NYS faces added scrutiny particularly for a March 25 health department directive which directed nursing homes to take in patients recovering from coronavirus and come from the hospitals.
The directive was also enacted in New Jersey, and was supposed to help alleviate crowding hospitals and free up beds in hospitals. Now, “we’re just not going to send a person who is positive to a nursing home after a hospital visit,” Mr. Cuomo said on Sunday. The governor said these recovering patients would be accommodated elsewhere, and he suggested they could be sent to the sites which were originally set up as temporary hospitals. He also said nursing homes can transfer any person they cannot properly care for there. Cuomo was also censured for a recent statement in which he said that providing masks and gowns to nursing homes is “not our job”, because those facilities are privately owned.
Though Cuomo had been widely praised for his ability to amass supplies for the state’s hospitals, he has been less successful in controlling the situation in nursing homes. “We’ve tried everything to keep it out of a nursing home, but it’s virtually impossible,” Cuomo said. “Now is not the best time to put your mother in a nursing home. That is a fact.”