Yesterday, Governor Andrew M. Cuomo stated that nursing homes are of special concern to him because of the tragic deaths of nursing home residents in Washington State. So, “we are putting additional requirements on nursing homes,” he says.
The Governor announced during a novel coronavirus briefing that in an effort to protect frail residents of nursing homes throughout New York State, only medically necessary visits will be allowed at these facilities.
This policy will be effective Friday, March 13 at 5pm. The state is also asking nursing homes to set up skyping and other on-line communication capacity so families can tele-visit their loved ones. Additionally, the state will require health screenings for all nursing home workers each day when they enter a facility and require them to wear surgical masks to guard against any potential asymptomatic spread.
Also going into effect at 5:00 pm today, limits are set on mass gatherings, directing events with 500 or more individuals in attendance to be cancelled or postponed. He noted that public health experts agree mass gatherings with people making sustained close contact are a place where the novel coronavirus can easily infect many people quickly and continue its spread. As such, events, gatherings, or places of business with less than 500 individuals in attendance will be required to cut capacity by 50 percent, with exceptions being made for spaces where individuals do not make sustained close contact, such as schools, hospitals, public buildings, mass transit, grocery stores and retail stores.
On its website, the New York Health Facilities Association, the for-profit nursing home trade group has requested its member facilities to not allow family and friends to visit unless absolutely necessary.
Making Diagnostic Tests More Accessible
In order to increase testing capacity, the State is contracting with Bio Reference Laboratories to run an additional 5,000 tests per day on top of what the state is already doing. These additional 5,000 tests per day will come online next week. This additional testing capacity is on top of that of the 28 private labs the Governor announced are partnering with the state in the coming days and weeks.
Additionally, the Governor announced the first public drive-through testing facility on the east coast will start testing people tomorrow in New Rochelle. Testing will be done by appointment only. New Rochelle residents who have been quarantined will be tested first.
Finally, at the press conference the Governor confirmed 109 additional cases of novel coronavirus, bringing the statewide total to 325 confirmed cases in New York State. Of the 325 total individuals who tested positive for the virus, there are 41 (13 new) cases in Nassau County, where Meadowbrook Care Center is located.
“Our number one priority is protecting the public health and every action the Governor and the State of New York have taken thus far have been in furtherance of that goal,” states State Health Department Commissioner Dr. Howard Zucker. “Public health experts have been clear that limiting large public gatherings where there is potential for close contact is a critical way to slow the spread of this virus. This regulation will help keep people healthy and safe.”