New York Takes Measures to Stop Nursing Home Covid-19 Surge

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New York nursing homes are seeing a surge in Covid-19 cases as the omicron variant continues to spread, even infecting residents who are fully vaccinated.

A new Covid-19 surge fueled by the omicron variant is spreading through New York nursing homes, even among those with fully vaccinated residents, according to a new report by Lohud. Data provided by state authorities showed that in the week ending on January 4th, there were almost 4,900 reported Covid cases in the state’s nursing homes, whereas in the previous week there were 1,500. In the week before that, there were fewer than 680.

At least ninety percent of New York nursing home residents are fully vaccinated against Covid-19, per the report, and about 67% have received boosters as well. This breakdown is strikingly different for nursing home workers: while 97% are fully vaccinated, only 22% have received boosters. In the week ending January 4th, almost 5,200 staffers tested positive for Covid-19, as opposed to 2,300 in the previous week. New York Governor Kathy Hochul has announced that all health care workers in the state, including nursing home employees, will be required to receive the booster.

In another measure to stop the spread of Covid-19 in nursing homes, Governor Hochul announced a slate of new visitation requirements. Visitors will have to wear “a surgical type mask,” according to a report by WGRZ, and show a negative test result less than 24 hours old. While the rules advise that visitors test themselves before they visit, they also provide for nursing homes to take rapid tests at the facility. “We prefer that they do it at home bring the results—show us,” she said. “Or do it in the parking lot before you go in—show us that it’s true. But also, we will provide the tests.” While the state sought authorization from the federal government to issue a vaccine mandate for visitors, according to Lohud, it did not receive approval.

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In order to keep residents safe and try to stop the spread, Governor Hochul’s new nursing home visitation guidelines will require that all visitors wear a medical mask and show proof of a negative test that was taken within the last 24 hours before entering the facility.

Another measure taken by Governor Hochul: the suspended enforcement of a staffing law set to take effect on January 1st. In addition to suspending enforcement of the bolstered staffing requirements, she additionally “suspended the law’s clause that required nursing homes spend at least 70% of revenue on direct resident care, and at least 40% of revenue on resident-facing staffing.” 

The Long-Term Community Care Coalition, an advocacy group for nursing homes, expressed concern about this measure, telling Lohud that it might lead to harm, as staffing shortages did earlier in the pandemic. The group’s executive director said in a statement, “New York’s failure to ensure adequate staffing, effective infection control, and access to visitation by residents’ families in the first wave of COVID cost lives… If a nursing home cannot meet the minimum staffing requirement in the state law, which is only 3.5 hours per resident day, we should be demanding that they do better, not rewarding them for putting their residents at risk.”

More information on the spread of Covid-19 in New York nursing homes, and measures taken by the state to mitigate it, is available via Lohud and WGRZ.

The attorneys at the Law Offices of Thomas L. Gallivan, PLLC work diligently to protect the rights of nursing home residents.  Please contact us to discuss in the event you have a potential case involving neglect or abuse.

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