COVID-19 at nursing homes discussed during state Senate, Assembly joint hearing
State Health Commissioner Dr. Howard Zucker was in the hot seat Monday as state lawmakers questioned what led to thousands of deaths in nursing homes during the coronavirus pandemic.
As of Aug. 1, COVID-19 was attributed to more 6,500 deaths in nursing homes and adult care facilities across the state.
In the Hudson Valley, Westchester County has the highest death toll with 522. Orange County is second with 136.
Some state leaders questioned if the number is higher, as nursing home residents who died in hospitals were not included in the state's count.
"We need to get clear information so that we can make better policy, and it seems to me that if the definition you that are insisting on keeping on the books is one that no other state utilizes and that it makes you look better than what y'all actually did, that's a problem, bro," said Sen. Gustavo Rivera (D, the Bronx).
Zucker says they have been "incredibly transparent on information."
He says nursing staff likely transmitted the virus to nursing home residents, as data shows 1 in 3 staff members has had coronavirus. He said the state is now requiring temperature checks and aggressively testing nursing home residents and staff to prevent future outbreaks.
Advocates for senior citizens say something must be done to prevent future outbreaks of coronavirus as a second wave is expected.
"No one was prepared for the spread of this horrific virus," says Judy Farrell, of the Tri County Ombudsman Program.