More than 700 nursing home residents across New York state have died from the new coronavirus.
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“And then to hear in my cousin’s voice, it’s just rough,” Terrence Liverpool said.
Liverpool lost his aunt on Monday. The 62-year-old contracted COVID-19 at the private Elm York Assisted Living in East Elmhurst, Queens. The family said they were told by a nurse that four residents of the home have died from the virus in a week.
“Her roomate was sick like for a little bit, and they took her out of the room and then brought her back into the room but never told my aunt that she had the coronavirus,” Liverpool said.
Illnesses caused by viruses often spread rapidly in nursing homes, and the elderly are especially vulnerable to COVID-19.
The state licenses 613 nursing homes, housing tens of thousands of people. The state says no resident with COVID-19 shall be denied re-admission to a nursing home. The state has not issued guidance on where the homes should place such patients, but says it's working with the industry to isolate them.
“Within those nursing homes, we are working to make sure that we are minimizing the spread of the COVID disease within that facility,” New York State Health Commissioner Dr. Howard Zucker said.
What’s also troubling to some is the shortage of personal protective equipment (PPE).
“We cannot write off our mothers, our grandmothers,” East Harlem resident Damaris Solis Padilla said.
Solis Padilla worries about her 93-year-old mother in one of five ArchCare nursing homes that are part of the Archdiocese of New York.
The president of ArchCare reported 200 cases of COVID-19 among 1,700 residents.
In a letter to families of residents, he divulged “due to the shortage of PPE, I have implemented alternative solutions, including the wearing of plastic disposable ponchos.”
He also wrote, “If every staff person who has been exposed stayed home there would be no one left to work in the health care facilities,” and advised residents to take their loved one home if possible.
“She’s there because I cannot care for her,” Solis Padilla said.
Solis Padilla says she’s not just worried for her mother, but for the staff.
“The people who are taking care of them are young, have families, they sometimes have two jobs, and go from one facility to another,” Solis Padilla said. “If they don’t have the protective gear, we’re all in danger.”
She says she's begging for the personal protective gear for nursing homes, aware of shortage at hospitals as well — a plea shared by the Archdioces of New York.
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