Anne Gray's mother first entered The Brightonian nursing home in Rochester in 2015. Her mother is now COVID positive and has been transferred to a hospital. For Gray, her mother's residency required constant vigilance.
"If you're not in the facility and see what's going on, there's just no recourse for you," she said. "There's none."
Gray worries COVID cases are potentially being under-reported in nursing homes. The Brightonian and other nursing homes provide updates to family members online as required by the state.
New York is conducting inspections of the facilities as well to ensure compliance. Attorney General Letitia James is also conducting an investigation. Still, Gray worries the facilities are given advance notice and can prepare for the reviews.
Across New York, there have been more than 5,000 deaths either directly attributed to the virus or potentially caused by the disease.
"Facilities could say they're doing everything," Gray said. "Unless someone is in the facility and a whistleblower said something, nothing is going to get done."
Maria Alvarez of the Statewide Senior Action Council says there needs to be improved training for staff, more personal protective equipment, and transparency by the Department of Health after they perform inspections.
“Those need to be finalized for every single nursing home and congregate setting and they need to be made public,” said Alvarez, the group’s executive director.
For nursing homes themselves, there have also been frustrations.
James Clyne is the president of Leading Age New York, which represents non-profit nursing homes and care facilities. He says there has been a struggle to secure protective equipment like masks and gowns for staff.
“It’s just been very chaotic in order to secure a regular supply of everything you need,” Clyne said.
And then there’s testing. Gov. Andrew Cuomo on Sunday ordered nursing homes to test nursing home staff twice a week — an order that may be impossible to fulfill.
“To go in six days to triple the amount of testing is just not realistic,” Clyne said. “The state would have to ramp up from about 25,000 tests to 90,000 tests a day. I don’t believe the amount of testing in New York could go up three times.”
Cuomo on Thursday in a radio interview with WAMC said he understood the nursing home's concerns about testing, but called it necessary. He also said it was difficult, but necessary to bar visitors from the facilities in order to prevent the spread of the virus.