New York State’s Department of Health reported 1,700 more coronavirus deaths at nursing homes and adult care facilities since March 1. The state is already under fire for sending recovering COVID-19 patients from hospitals to nursing homes, further endangering both residents and workers.
This brings the total number of deaths at nursing homes in the state to at least 4,813. The higher numbers include those presumed to have died from the virus before a laboratory test could actually confirm the diagnosis.
Residents of senior care facilities are especially at risk from the virus. Older patients and those with other health issues, such as high blood pressure, obesity and diabetes, suffer more from coronavirus than the general population.
One study found that 94% of hospitalized patients in New York had underlying health issues. Another study, from Italy, reported that 23.5% of those who died from COVID-19 had one co-occurring health issue, 26.6% had two, and 48.6% who died had three or more comorbidities.
Across the nation, the number of nursing homes with coronavirus cases has increased dramatically, with a Washington Post article stating that more than one out of six facilities have reported cases. The Kaiser Family Foundation says that 1.3 million Americans live in nursing homes, “with 800,000 in assisted living facilities; 75,000 in intermediate care facilities; and 3 million people who work in skilled nursing or residential care facilities.”
As we previously reported, New York and New Jersey have ordered that nursing homes must accept recovering coronavirus patients discharged from hospitals. California had a similar policy, which it has since softened after complaints from medical providers.
The American Medical Directors Association (AMDA) Society for Post-Acute and Long-Term Care Medicine called sending COVID-19 patients from hospitals to nursing homes and long-term care facilities “a recipe for disaster.”
AMDA quoted Dr. Michael Wasserman, who leads the California Association of Long Term Care Medicine, who said that the state mandates were counterproductive. He said, “If you push folks out of the hospitals to make space and you push them into nursing homes a couple weeks later, for every one of those you send to the nursing home, you may get 20 back in the hospital.”
In a press conference after the new numbers were released, N.Y. Governor Andrew Cuomo responded to questions: “Everybody wants to point at the nursing homes now. We knew the nursing homes were going to be a target. And whatever we do they will be a target.”
Cuomo also said the state’s attorney general would be looking into the occurrence of infections at nursing homes to see how the state could improve its response.
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Photo by Martin Sanchez