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Families tell News 12 that nursing homes not keeping them up to date with COVID-19 numbers

The state Department of Health, which regulates nursing homes, says that there are more than 3,000 COVID-19 cases in New York nursing homes and more than 700 deaths, as of this week. It says 45% of the states 600 nursing homes has coronavirus cases.

News 12 Staff

Apr 7, 2020, 8:59 PM

Updated 1,534 days ago

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The state Department of Health, which regulates nursing homes, says that there are more than 3,000 COVID-19 cases in New York nursing homes and more than 700 deaths, as of this week. It says 45% of the states 600 nursing homes has coronavirus cases.
Several families claim some local nursing homes are leaving them in the dark about the number of COVID-19 cases in these facilities. All of them tell News 12 they feel betrayed by the lack of transparency.
Jennifer Jones, 66, is a retired postal worker and the latest nursing home patient to die alone from COVID-19. Her family says their grief is compounded by feelings of betrayal.
Jones lived at the Westchester Center for Rehabilitation and Nursing in Mount Vernon for 14 years. Her daughter, Charice Gaines, says the only information they've received about the coronavirus was on the news.

"They took away my decision on whether I want to keep her in there," says Gaines.

Brenda Dailey says she experienced the same frustration.

Her husband Ronald passed away in the Mount Vernon Nursing Home March 17, two days after turning 75.

There is a similar story at Willow Towers Assisted Living Center in New Rochelle. One family who spoke to News 12 wanted to remain anonymous because their loved one still lived there. 
"Since last weekend, seven of the 23 residents in the Phoenix Memory unit have passed away," said the person. 
News 12 asked the state Health Department and Willow Towers to confirm the number of positive coronavirus cases, but has not received an answer. 
After repeated requests by News 12 and families, Willow Towers sent a letter stating that three residents passed away from COVID-19.
Nora O'Brien, its executive producer, said, “Since my last communication with you on April 2, three residents of Willow Towers Assisted Living’s Phoenix Unit have died in the hospital due to complications related to the virus. We are profoundly saddened by this news as we regard your loved ones as family. We feel this loss acutely and send our deepest sympathies to the families affected.”
Over the weekend, the Health Department updated its guidelines and told nursing homes they must notify residents and residents' families the same day they learn of a suspected or confirmed case of COVID-19. 
"I feel betrayed and I can't even explain the words," says Gaines. "I feel like someone punched me in the stomach and took my insides out. Every day without my mom is a day I cannot explain."
The state has created three new email addresses for families to use to contact the state regarding their questions and concerns about loved ones and COVID-19 in nursing homes.
Families can submit questions or concerns about Covid-19 or nursing homes to the NYS Department of Health at icp@health.ny.gov, covidadultcareinfo@health.ny.gov, or covidnursinghomeinfo@health.ny.gov.
The Westchester Center for Rehabilitation and Nursing tells News 12 they have sent four communications to families since mid-March about the virus.

Only one family News 12 is in contact with confirms receiving a single communication from the Westchester Center for Rehabilitation and Nursing. That one communication was sent March 10 and does not include any coronavirus cases.
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