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State Sen. Tedisco pushes for nursing home study; 9 new COVID-19 cases over weekend

With legislation stalled in the state Legislature, Republican state Sen. James Tedisco is asking Gov. Andrew Cuomo to approve a study of the state’s handling of COVID-19 patients in nursing homes.

Tedisco, R-Glenville, sent Cuomo a letter this week asking for an “in-depth, thorough and complete” accounting for all nursing home deaths in New York state since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic. The letter was also sent to Sen. Gustavo Rivera, chair of the state Senate’s Health Committee, and Sen. James Skoufis, chair of the Senate’s Investigations Committee.

The state Health Department is reporting 6,500 nursing home deaths due to COVID-19, but Tedisco said nursing home directives have resulted in disparities statewide in how deaths are reported and counted.

Tedisco has introduced S.8756 in the Senate with companion legislation, A.10857, introduced by Assemblyman Ronald Kim, D-Flushing. Their legislation would establish a five-person committee appointed by the Senate majority leader, Senate minority leader, Assembly speaker, Assembly minority leader and chaired by someone appointed by the state Attorney General. A report would be expected by Nov. 30.

“This legislation will remove the politics of getting to the bottom of this terrible tragedy because this investigation would be overseen by bi-partisan appointees from both houses of the legislature. Furthermore, each appointee will possess a background in health care and/or health policy,” Kim wrote in his legislative justification.

State Sen. George Borrello, R-Sunset Bay, is one of several Republican co-sponsors of the Senate legislation.

Cuomo, who has been praised for leadership that helped flatten the curve of infections in New York, has also been criticized over his handling of nursing homes, specifically the order that told homes they could not refuse to accept recovering COVID-19 patients from hospitals as long as the patients were “medically stable.” The order barred homes from even testing such patients to see if they still had the virus. The directive was intended to free up hospital beds for the sickest patients as cases surged. But relatives, patient advocates and nursing home administrators have called it a misguided decision, blaming it for helping to spread the virus among the state’s most vulnerable residents.

Cuomo reversed the order under pressure May 10, long after New York’s death toll in care homes had climbed to among the highest in the nation. To date, nearly 6,500 deaths have been linked to the coronavirus in the state’s nursing home and long-term care-facilities. But the 33-page state report flatly says “that nursing home admissions from hospitals were not a driver of nursing home infections or fatalities.” Instead, it says the virus’ rampant run through New York nursing homes was propelled by the 37,500 nursing home workers who became infected between mid-March and early June and unknowingly passed the virus on. The report noted that the number of residents dying at nursing homes peaked on April 8, around the same time as COVID-19 deaths statewide, but nearly a week before the peak of coronavirus patients being transferred from hospitals. It also said 80% of the 310 nursing homes that admitted coronavirus patients already had a confirmed or suspected case among its residents or staff before the directive was issued. And it contends the median number of coronavirus patients sent to nursing homes had been hospitalized for nine days, the same period that the study said it likely takes for the virus to no longer be contagious.

“If you were to place blame, I would blame coronavirus,” Dr. Howard Zucker, the state health commissioner, told reporters last week.

Cuomo said in a later news conference that“ugly politics” were behind “this political conspiracy that the deaths in nursing homes were preventable. And now the report has the facts, and the facts tell the opposite story.”

NINE NEW CASES

Nine new COVID-19 cases were reported over the last three days, the Chautauqua County Health Department announced. The new cases involve a person under the age of 18, a female young adult, a male in his 20s, a female in her 20s, a male in his 40s, a female in her 40s, two females in their 60s and a female in her 90s.

There are 102 cases under quarantine and isolation orders by the public health director and being monitored. In addition, 1,021 people were under domestic traveler quarantine for having arrived to Chautauqua County from a state listed on the New York state travel advisory.

There have been 216 recovered cases, nine deaths, 240 total confirmed cases and 23,997 negative test results.

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