ICYMI: Independent Nursing Home, Hospital & Medical Representatives Support and Validate DOH Report Findings on Covid-19 Infections and Fatalities In Nursing Homes

ALBANY, N.Y. (July 7, 2020) – In case you missed it, independent reviewers support the findings of a New York State Department of Health analysis of infections and fatalities in nursing homes, released Monday, which found COVID-19 fatalities in nursing homes were related to infected nursing home staff. The report can be found here.

Jim Clyne, President & CEO, Leading Age NY, a not-for-profit organization representing the long term care community appearing on Capital Tonight with Nick Reisman:

Reisman: So, first, you went through this report which basically said people who were either visiting from outside the nursing home facilities or staff members themselves who were asymptomatic brought the coronavirus into these nursing homes and that is why you saw such a high death rate as Governor Cuomo said back in March, like fire through dry grass. Based on your reading of the report, do you think that the report was a fair assessment of what ‎went on in nursing home facilities in March and April?

Jim Clyne: I think it really shows what we were hearing anecdotally from our members which was that the COVID virus was far more prevalent in the facilities than anyone knew in mid-March.

Nick Reisman: And the idea that staffers were bringing it in, people who were asymptomatic, this was actually a policy of New York State based on some CDC guidelines, but it was something that New York ultimately rescinded on April 29th. Did they act too late or was there just not enough information known about this virus for them to have acted by then?

Jim Clyne: I think there was not enough known in March about the tremendous spread in the community. Obviously, nursing home visitations were stopped on March 13th, but there had already been quite a bit of spread by the time that had taken place. We just didn't know that until individuals started showing symptoms and then symptoms that were so acute they needed to be hospitalized. You have to remember around that time it was very hard to get a COVID test. So it was hard when somebody was just showing symptoms to be able to get a test in a nursing home.

Reisman: The March 25th order that allowed, that required nursing homes to take in COVID positive patients from hospitals – partially reversed in May – there was something of a criticism that was leveled against the Governor, against the Department of Health, for having this regulation in place. The Governor has called this kind of politically motivated criticism. But I am curious, has that played a factor at all in the fatalities in nursing homes?

Clyne: You know, we never thought that was the driving, or most of my members did not think that was the driving force up for COVID infections in nursing homes. As the report shows, over 80 percent of the nursing homes had already had infections, or that downstate nursing homes already had infections prior to that order. I don't think you can say that not a single person who was taken from a hospital contributed to the infection rate, but the driving force was asymptomatic and pre-symptomatic staff who are working in the facilities not knowing that they were infectious. The other thing that obviously contributed to it was the lack of protective equipment. No one could foresee that there was going to be this shortage of goggles, facemasks, gowns, gloves. That was just not something that we understood was going to happen.

Reisman: And certainly hopefully with lessons learned this time around that could avoid a second spike in those nursing homes. Do nursing home facilities, long-term care facilities feel like they've learned a lot out of this? We've got only a few seconds left, so very quickly.

Clyne: Yeah, they've learned quite a bit, but still the protective equipment while it's available now, it's very expensive. So I think what the nursing homes really feel like is they need some support from the state to help them really prepare for either the next round of this virus or the next virus to come.

Additional statements from independent reviewers include:

David L. Reich MD, President and COO of The Mount Sinai Hospital, said "Mount Sinai scientists published a report last week, demonstrating the presence of antibodies to SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, in saved blood specimens as early as the week ending February 23. This means that the virus was spreading in the NYC metropolitan region approximately three weeks earlier. The conclusions of the NYSDOH report of the root causes of nursing home fatalities in New York State are well supported by the data detailing nursing home staff COVID-19 illness, and epidemiological patterns, especially considering evidence of the duration of contagiousness for COVID-19 patients. We all hope to learn from these data and work with NYSDOH and nursing home partners to maximize safety for our most vulnerable citizens as this pandemic continues to evolve."

Michael Dowling, CEO, Northwell Health, said "This important data-based study confirms what we saw in our own facilities and around the state --that when the virus hit our local communities, it quickly spread through asymptomatic carriers into our nursing homes, hospitals, places of worship and other congregate settings. This study highlighted a critically important fact that the overwhelming majority of hospital patients sent back into nursing homes were not only medically stable, they were no longer contagious, and that 81 percent of the nursing homes receiving COVID patients from New York's hospitals already had the virus. This rigorous, fact-driven analysis provides critical insight as we move forward into the next phase of this pandemic and continue to look for new ways to improve health outcomes for patients."

Kenneth Raske, President, Greater New York Hospital Association, said "There is no blame here. The virus was widespread far earlier than anyone knew, and we were learning about it in real time. New York's nursing home workers delivered heroic care during an unprecedented pandemic that took particular aim at the frail elderly. We are deeply grateful for their service. We have long believed that multiple factors, independent of admission policies, drove the number of COVID-19 deaths in New York nursing homes. The DOH report casts an important light on what occurred during this incredibly challenging pandemic. As we plan for a possible resurgence of the virus, the report will serve as a guidepost for how we can best protect our vulnerable nursing home residents. While there is still much to learn, we do know that the proper use of personal protective equipment is indispensable. The report is also a reminder that simply repeating a public narrative doesn't make it true if the facts don't support it. As a great person I was proud to call my friend—the late United States Senator from New York, Daniel Patrick Moynihan—said, "You are entitled to your opinion. But you are not entitled to your own facts."

The full New York State Department of Health report can be found here.