Three more Niagara County residents died over the weekend due to the coronavirus. As on Monday, five new COIVD-19 cases were reported, for a total of 279 to date. A shade under 1,300 people have been tested.
Speaking Monday on LCTV, Public Health Director Daniel Stapleton said, “The numbers are going up, in terms of testing. … We just received 100 test kits just over the weekend. So, that helps and allows us to be able to make sure we're getting all the first responders, health care workers. We’re expanding that out to people who work in nursing homes.
“We know nursing homes are a sign of concern for us, because the numbers of residents getting sick is going up, and number of positives in the nursing homes are going up. So, it'll allow us to take that hundred and put it towards trying to provide a testing for people who work in assisted living centers, nursing homes. These are people who have symptoms. And it allow us to make sure that we're preventing the spread of the infection through a nursing home or through an assisted living center.
Niagara County Legislature Chairwoman Becky Wydysh told Stapleton, “We hear the governor talk quite a bit about this now, and some of the discrepancies in the reporting that's coming out. And we know, again, that your department isn't necessarily tracking those – those are handled by the state health department, and you don't receive all of that information back to be able to verify it. So, we know when we're talking about deaths in Niagara County, that they're not necessarily included in those numbers. We're hearing from the state information that there may have been eight deaths in Niagara County health facilities.”
Stapleton explained, “We know right now that, although we don't have oversight of nursing homes, we still identify a need to help the residents of the nursing home – and the people who work in the nursing home. So, to make sure that they're protected – and to make sure the residents are protected – that's why we’ll be offering the testing kits to the nursing homes; to get a better idea.
“We do know that the residents have not been leaving the facilities. There's been no visitors allowed for five, six weeks. So, we know it's coming from workers. We want to be able to ensure that workers who have symptoms are being tested. So, if they turn out to be positive, we can stop that transmission right at its source. It's an important tool.
“We identify that we need to make sure we can help all residents of Niagara County, and that includes the residents of the nursing home. They're vulnerable. We're going to do whatever we need to do to make sure that they remain safe. And if that means that we help by providing kits, or we offer insight, or we offer PPE to a nursing home, we'll do that.”
Earlier on Monday, Stephen Hanse, president and CEO of the New York State Health Facilities Association and the New York State Center for Assisted Living, addressed the issue of rising numbers of COVID-19 outbreaks and fatalities in New York’s nursing homes and assisted living communities.
“We continue to be deeply concerned about the high mortality rate and how widespread COVID-19 has become in long-term care facilities. From the onset of this pandemic, nursing homes and assisted living providers have been the proverbial canary in the coal mine as to the devastation this virus can impose, and we must receive priority status for assistance with staffing, PPE shortages and testing to protect our residents and staff,” he said. “As the governor stated, COVID-19 spreads through nursing homes ‘like fire through dry grass.’ While the focus has often been on hospitals, the figures confirm what we have been saying all along – that nursing homes and assisted living providers care for the most vulnerable in our communities and are the most susceptible to this virus.
“Outbreaks of COVID-19 are not the result of inattentiveness or shortcomings in our facilities. The very nature of long-term care is a high-touch environment where social distancing is not an option in providing care. Staff are hands-on helping residents with bathing, dressing, eating and other personal daily needs.
Hanse also noted, “Nursing homes and assisted living providers have been informing designated family members of positive COVID-19 tests and the presence of COVID-19 in buildings throughout this pandemic. Moreover, providers have continually submitted COVID-19 information to state and local health departments.”