Hospitals treating nursing home residents for the coronavirus will not be able to discharge them back to their nursing home until diagnostic tests for the disease come back negative.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo issued the order Sunday after total nursing home and adult care facility deaths due to complications related to COVID-19 topped 5,400 over the weekend. Despite the new directive, however, Cuomo isn't admitting a previous policy of allowing nursing homes to accept COVID-positive patients was a mistake.
"Look at how many residents we have in nursing homes, and look at the percentage of deaths in nursing homes vis-a-vis other states, we are down to like No. 34," Cuomo told reporters Sunday during his daily press briefing.
Cuomo had earlier cited the fact that New York has more nursing home residents than any other state, at more than 100,000. When compared to other confirmed COVID-related deaths in the state, nursing homes account for just 12 percent. That's compared to West Virginia and Minnesota, were nursing homes account for more than 80 percent of their death tolls.
Pennsylvania, Rhode Island and Delaware are above 60 percent, while Massachusetts, Colorado, Virginia, North Carolina and Connecticut count more than half of their deaths taking place in nursing homes.
"This is a national problem, right? Nursing homes in general, all across the country, have seen the COVID virus take a high toll," Cuomo said. "This virus uses nursing homes. They are ground zero. They're the vulnerable population in a vulnerable location. A congregation of vulnerable people."
Cuomo has made it clear to nursing homes in recent weeks that if they cannot properly isolate coronavirus patients from the rest of their population, they need to contact the state's health department, and have that resident transferred to a facility that can handle it.
On top of that, Cuomo is now ordering all nursing home employees to be tested for the coronavirus twice weekly. They still have to comply with other regulations, which include provide notification of families of a positive case or death within 24 hours, among other procedures.
Employees still must undergo temperature checks every 12 hours, and wear all necessary personal protective equipment when dealing with patients.
Not doing this could come at a high cost for the nursing home, Cuomo said — the loss of their license to operate.
"Well, that's harsh," Cuomo said. "No, harsh is having a nursing home resident who doesn't get appropriate care. That's what's harsh. Having someone's parent or mother or brother in a situation where they are in a facility, they can't even get a visit, they're isolated, and they feel alone, and they're not getting appropriate care.
"That is what is feeling harsh."
Nursing home deaths, as of Saturday, jumped significantly in Long Island's Suffolk County — so much, its total of confirmed and suspected deaths surpassed Bronx County for third place. Suffolk has 706 confirmed and suspected deaths in nursing homes and adult care facilities, while the Bronx has 694. Queens County continues to lead the state with 889 deaths, nearly 400 of them confirmed.
Through May 9. Source: New York State Department of Health
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