With the death toll from COVID-19 climbing disproportionately in nursing homes, a New York state directive which mandated nursing facilities to admit patients who had tested positive, and may have still been infected with Coronavirus is coming to light.
On March 25th, as the outbreak in New York just started to intensify, Newsday reported that a state level directive stated,”no resident shall be denied readmission or admission to the [nursing home] solely based on a confirmed or suspected diagnosis of COVID-19.”
Seriousness of infection depends almost entirely on two variables: age and pre-existing conditions. The fatality rate for Coronavirus is fractions of a percent for healthy people under 50. While most young people can fight off the infection without even realizing they were a carrier, it’s a different story for the elderly and those battling pre-existing conditions. Almost 15% of known patients over 80 die from the virus. Patients with heart conditions, cancer, diabetes, etc. have an even higher rate of death. Nursing home residents are the perfect victim for a virus that’s especially deadly to the sick and elderly.
Last month’s Newsday report added, “hospitals [were] under pressure to discharge patients, including ones stricken with the coronavirus but who don’t need ventilators, to open up beds for what Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo says will be a surge of thousands more cases in the next two to four weeks.” Though New York hit their peak mid-April, and the healthcare system was not overwhelmed like previously predicted, hospitals were encouraged to free up beds from mild cases to create a warcheast of supplies for an anticipated tsunami of patients.
As late as last Monday, NY Post reported, “New York’s health commissioner on Monday defended a directive that requires nursing homes to readmit residents who’ve tested positive for the coronavirus.” Suprisingly, despite his sudden propulsion to the national spotlight, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo was oblivious to this directive.
When asked about the policy, Gov. Cuomo said, “that’s a good question, I don’t know.”
During the daily New York briefing, Howard Zucker was also questioned about the directive:
Health Commissioner Howard Zucker, to whom Cuomo referred the question, said that under the state’s policy, “if you are positive, you should be admitted back to a nursing home.”
“The necessary precautions will be taken to protect the other residents there,” he said during Cuomo’s daily coronavirus briefing in Albany.
Zucker was asked to explain how the policy could be justified, given how state officials have repeatedly said how quickly the virus can spread and how vulnerable nursing home residents are to COVID-19.
“And that’s why we’re working closely with the nursing home leadership and the individuals who are working in the nursing homes to protect those individuals who are coming back who have COVID-19 and went back to the nursing homes and where they came from,” he said.New York Post
According to one executive at an unnamed nursing facility, “officials sent them a box of personal protection equipment for the staff designated to treat these residents, and in the same box was a supply of body bags,” Business Insider reported. The facility was previously Coronavirus free until they were forced by the state to take in two recovering patients. 30 residents went on to die after admitting the COVID-19 positive patients.
As of April 27th, 3,653 nursing home residents died of Coronavirus out of 17,303 people in New York State who succumbed to the illness.