Coronavirus USA Updates: NY to require virus testing for nursing home staffers

Coronavirus USA Updates: NY to require virus testing for nursing home staffers
Coronavirus USA Updates: NY to require virus testing for nursing home staffers

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo issued a series of new rules for nursing homes in hopes of curbing the spread of the coronavirus and protecting the health and safety of the state’s most vulnerable population.

Since the start of the pandemic, more than 5,300 New Yorkers living in nursing homes have died from the virus, that’s according to a tally from the Associated Press.

Hospitals cannot release patients to nursing homes in New York unless the patient tests negative for the virus, Cuomo said Sunday. The governor’s announcement is a reversal of sorts from a March order by the state’s health department requiring nursing home to accept recovering patients.

Previously, the health department’s order stated “[nursing homes] are prohibited from requiring a hospitalized resident who is determined medically stable to be tested for COVID-19 prior to admission or readmission.”

“We’re just not going to send a person who is positive to a nursing home after hospital visit. Period. If there’s any issue, the resident must be referred to the department of health which will find alternative care,” Cuomo said Sunday.

Last week, New York state reported more than 1,700 previously undisclosed deaths at nursing homes and adult care facilities in a tally that included for the first time people believed to have been killed by the coronavirus before their diagnoses could be confirmed.

The tally, released late Monday, emerged as state officials faced scrutiny over how they have protected vulnerable residents from the coronavirus.

With the inclusion of the additional deaths, the state now lists 22 nursing homes as having at least 40 deaths. Most of the facilities are in New York City and on Long Island. Sixty-two nursing homes reported between 20 and 39 deaths.

In total, New York holds the highest population of nursing home residents in the country – 101,518 – according to the governor, who called nursing homes “ground zero” for the virus.

Going forward staff at nursing homes will be required to take two diagnostic tests each week to check for the coronavirus, Cuomo said. He also guaranteed the tests would be available to those employees.

The elderly are undoubtedly the most vulnerable population at risk of dying from COVID-19. New York State health officials report 85 percent of all COVID-19 deaths are in people ages 60 and above.

Daily Hospitalizations Down

The numbers have echoed a familiar beat all week: daily hospitalizations are down and the number of people on ventilators continues to drop, but those positive indicators have not stopped the death toll from rising.

As of Sunday, New York, New Jersey and Connecticut have collectively reported more than 33,000 deaths; combined with New York City’s 5,178 probable deaths, that total is expected to reach 40,000 in a matter of days.

New York State reported 572 new hospitalizations on Saturday, the lowest number since mid-March, a sign of the state’s progress since flattening the curve. Total hospitalizations and intubations are steadily but slowly declining.

Despite the good news, Cuomo said the addition of 226 COVID-related deaths highlighted the state’s “infuriatingly constant” death toll. Saturday’s number of deaths reflected an average from the previous five days and matched the number reported back on May 3.

More than two months have passed since the first case was reported by New York officials and the governors fight a virus without a timeline.

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s office over the weekend reiterated the message he’s delivered all week: the “NY ON PAUSE” order remains in place until May 15. The governor had said for weeks he expected to allow his shutdown directive to expire after May 15 in some lesser-impacted parts of the state while extending it in others.

Cuomo could extend the stay-at-home order – he gave himself the legal authority to do so by signing an executive order earlier this week – but publicly has not shared a new timetable past Friday’s deadline.

So what happens on May 15? Regions of New York State that meet key indicators in mitigating the spread of the coronavirus can start the first phase of the governor’s reopening schedule. The first reopening phase includes businesses in construction, manufacturing and retail with curb-side pickup.

It seems likely that some northern and western parts of the state are ready to reopen, but there are still 21 New York zip codes whose COVID-19 numbers are still too high where the bulk of cases are located (and are disproportionately impacting communities of color).

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