Hospitals will no longer be able to discharge a COVID-19 positive patient to a nursing home facility until that patient tests negative for the virus and all nursing home staff must be tested for the virus twice a week, Governor Andrew Cuomo announced Sunday during his daily press conference.
Sunday’s press conference largely centered on increased protective measures for seniors in nursing homes. The governor also updated the public on a COVID-19-related illness in children that has claimed at least three lives, with a total of 85 cases currently under investigation by the Department of Health.
“This virus uses nursing homes. They are ground zero,” said Governor Cuomo of nursing home facilities, outlining safety measures the state had previously imposed on facility operators during the virus pandemic. Those include restricting visitation, except for end-of-life visits, requiring the use of Personal Protective Equipment, or PPE, for staff interacting with residents either confirmed or suspected of having the virus and requiring staff to be checked for symptoms every 12 hours. Nursing homes have also been required to notify residents and families within 24 hours of a COVID-19-positive test or death and separate residents and staff in the event of an outbreak.
While the impact of the virus on nursing home facilities is a national problem, New York has the highest population of nursing home residents of any state in the country, with 101,518 residents in care facilities. Despite that, New York’s percentage of deaths in nursing homes is the 34th highest percentage of any state in the country.
Governor Cuomo said it is incumbent on nursing home providers to contact the Department of Health in the event they are unable to properly care for a resident, which has always been the case, he said, with the state able to transfer that resident and offer care at a facility that can offer treatment. This includes if a facility is unable to properly care for a COVID-19-positive patient with protective measures in place for all residents and staff of a facility.
Moving forward, Governor Cuomo said all nursing home staff must now be tested twice a week.
“That is not just a temperature check, that is a diagnostic test,” he said, noting the state has the tests available.
“That is a rule — it’s not an ‘I’d appreciate it if you did it,’” he said.
Hospitals cannot discharge patients to a nursing home unless that patient tests negative for the coronavirus under the new requirements.
“Remember, and I want nursing home operators to understand this, we have alternate facilities for nursing home patients, COVID or non-COVID,” said Governor Cuomo, noting New York created an additional 40,000 hospital beds in response to the virus outbreak.
“We are not reducing the number of hospital beds available,” he said.
Nursing home operators who do not follow these procedures, said the Governor, will lose their license.
The state Department of Health is now investigating 85 cases of a COVID-19-related illness in children that has resulted in the death of two elementary-age children and one adolescent. Two additional deaths are also under investigation, the governor confirmed Sunday.
The illness is a serious inflammatory disease with symptoms similar to Kawasaki disease and toxic shock syndrome.
“This does not present as a normal COVID case,” said Governor Cuomo. “COVID cases tend to be respiratory. This presents as an inflammation of blood vessels and possibly the inflammation of the heart.”
The Department of Health is contacting other state health departments to put them on alert about the illness and according to Dr. Howard Zucker, the state Commissioner of Health, the state is researching the charts of children impacted by this syndrome in an effort to learn more about it and provide the public with additional information.
The number of hospitalizations, statewide, continues to decline, Governor Cuomo said, as have intubations and new cases of COVID-19. On May 9, 521 new cases were reported. The death toll for May 9 was 207, an improvement, noted Governor Cuomo, but still death.
“Five hundred and twenty-one takes us right back to where we started this hellish journey,” said Governor Cuomo, noting that was the number of new cases reported as the state issued an order for schools and non-essential businesses to close on March 20.
The Department of Health and Human Services is also distributing what the governor called a “promising treatment,” Remdesivir, which has been shown to help patients battling the virus. The department has sent New York enough antiviral to treat 2,900 people at 15 hospitals.
With the “New York on Pause” order set to expire on May 15, Governor Cuomo said Monday’s press conference would include county executives from throughout the state as officials discuss what regions can safely begin to reopen. Regions must show, from a data perspective, that the spread of the virus is under control, but also that local governments are prepared to reopen in terms of hospital capacity, testing, tracing and isolation plans in place.
As New York looks to begin reopening, Governor Cuomo stressed once more that the state — and other states — are in dire need of federal funding with New York anticipating a $61 billion state deficit as a result of the virus outbreak, with state agencies like the Port Authority and the Metropolitan Transportation Authority also facing significant financial losses.
“The economic impact is beyond what any state can deal with,” said Governor Cuomo, adding that without federal assistance the state will be forced to reduce school, local government and hospital aid by 20 percent. New York State, he said, needs approximately $35 billion to compensate for losses related to the virus after beginning the year with a robust economy.
Governor Cuomo also proposed The Americans First Law to be considered, requiring all corporate bailout packages come with a requirement that those employers rehire the same number of employees they had pre-pandemic, or risk having to return federal loans.