State to Probe Whether Nursing Homes Are Following Guidelines

New York Attorney General Leticia James and the state Department of Health will open an investigation into nursing homes and adult care facilities after they have experienced a torrent of coronavirus-related deaths.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo said Thursday that the facilities must comply with a series of guidelines to protect residents and staff and will face stiff fines and even revocation of their license if they fail to comply.

“The state has very strict guidelines on privately-run facilities,” Cuomo said. “They get paid to take care of a resident. That resident, that patient, must have a state-directed level of care. If they cannot provide that, they can’t have the residents in their facility.”

The order came following an exceptionally high number of deaths at facilities throughout the state from COVID-19 since early March. As of Wednesday, 3,540 of the more than 15,000 deaths statewide came at nursing homes or adult care facilities. Westchester has had 270 nursing home or adult care deaths and Putnam County has had 12.

Deaths are self-reported by the homes. Any facility that has had more than five deaths from COVID-19 is listed on the state Department of Health website along with the number of deaths.

Under the state guidelines, residents who have tested positive for COVID-19 must be quarantined and there must be separate staff for COVID-19 residents from those who have not tested positive. If a facility is unable to care for the residents properly, then the person must be transferred to another facility.

Furthermore, a home must contact the family of a resident who has tested positive for the virus or who has died from a COVID-19-related illness within 24 hours.

For staff of these facilities, they must be provided the personal protective equipment and have their temperatures taken.

Cuomo said while the facilities are regulated by the state, the organizations that operate the homes will be held responsible if they don’t follow the guidelines. A failure to comply could result in fines of up to $10,000 per violation or a loss of the facility’s license.

James said in a statement that her office launched a hotline where residents, families and members of the public can share complaints about nursing homes that have not provided required communications with families about COVID-19 diagnoses or fatalities.

The hotline will also accept complaints about nursing home abuse and neglect, including failure to follow rules to keep residents safe and inadequate personal protection equipment, testing and infection-control protocols.

Confidential complaints can be filed by calling 833-249-8499 or by visiting https://ag.ny.gov/nursinghomes.

Early Antibody Test Results

Preliminary results disclosed Thursday from the first phase of New York State’s antibody testing program revealed 13.9 percent of the first 3,000 people tested have been infected with COVID-19.

A random sampling was taken over two days in 19 counties and 40 localities across all regions of the state in groceries, supermarkets and big-box stores, Cuomo said. Antibody testing will help the public health officials better gauge the infection rate and knowing who could be immune from the virus, which can guide how the state how most effectively start to reopen the economy. It would also identify who can give blood at plasma donation centers to help treat COVID-19 patients.

According to the results, there was an infection rate of 21.2 percent in New York City, 16.7 percent in Nassau and Suffolk counties, 11.7 percent in Westchester and Rockland counties and 3.6 percent in the remainder of the state.

“These are people who are out and about shopping,” Cuomo said of how those who were tested were found. “These are not people who are at their home, and were not people who were isolated. They were not people who were quarantined.”

The state is eventually looking to conduct tens of thousands of tests per day.

Governor Unloads on McConnell

Cuomo blasted Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell during his Thursday briefing for recommending that states consider filing for bankruptcy and calling governors’ appeals for federal aid as a “blue state bailout.”

Cuomo, who said if some of the biggest states in the country go bankrupt the markets would tank and there would be no economic recovery, noted that New York pays out $116 billion more than it takes in from the federal government while McConnell’s home state of Kentucky takes $148 billion more than it pays to Washington.

“Sen. McConnell, who’s getting bailed out here,” Cuomo said. “It’s your state that is living on the money that we generate. Your state is getting bailed out, not my state.”

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