"A fire in dry grass," was how Governor Andrew Cuomo first described how the coronavirus quickly and easily spreading to residents and staff at nursing homes.
The coronavirus death toll in these facilities has now surpassed 5,000 since March and there have been calls from all across the state for an investigation into how nursing homes operated in this pandemic.
On Sunday, Cuomo announced that hospitals are no longer allowed to discharge patients back into nursing homes unless they test negative for the coronavirus.
Cuomo said the original policy issued on March 25, which allowed hospitals to discharge COVID positive patients back to nursing homes, was due to a concern over hospital capacity at the time.
Nursing homes are still not allowed to refuse admittance of a COVID-19 positive patient, but they also must be able to provide adequate care for this resident, such as having proper personal protective equipment and a separate wing or facility for these positive patients.
Nursing homes must also now test their staff twice a week for the coronavirus.
If nursing homes are not able to provide proper care for residents, Cuomo says the state has constructed specialized COVID-19-only facilities both upstate and downstate suitable for nursing home residents. He emphasized that these facilities will be operational until this is over or until the end of the year.
Nursing homes that do not follow these procedures will lose their license, according to the governor.
On May 15, this coming Friday, the Governor says that some upstate regions will be able to start a Phase 1 reopening.
This Monday, May 11, Cuomo will speak with county executives that will be eligible.
Regions that will be able to start reopening will have to have at least 30% of its hospital bed capacity open in case there is a second wave of the virus and have a 14 day decline in total net hospitalizations. Each hospital must also have a 90 day supply of PPE and be able to conduct 30 coronavirus tests per 1,000 residents.
So far, only a few upstate regions are close to meeting all of the criteria, although Broome County Executive Jason Garnar tweeted on Saturday that his region and the Southern Tier were told by state leaders they could start reopening on May 15.
The Four Phases the Governor has outlined for reopening:
Phase 1: Construction, manufacturing; wholesale supply chain; select retail, mainly curbside pickup
Phase 2: Professional services; finance and insurance; retail; administrative support; real estate/rental leasing.
Phase 3: Restaurants/food services; hotels/accommodations
Phase 4: Arts/entertainment/recreation; education.
The Governor also announced that the state and the department of health are investigating 85 cases of what may be a COVID-related illness in children with symptoms similar to Kawasaki disease or a toxic shock-like syndrome. It has now taken the lives of three New Yorkers. The state will be investigating all three deaths.
It also will be issuing a notice to all 49 other states about this situation and what they have learned about this mysterious illness.
Cuomo also warned of massive job losses on both the state and local level if federal aid is not issued to the state soon. He said the state will need approximately $35 billion this year to compensate for COVID-19 losses.
Both state and local government officials have been calling on New York's Congressional delegation to procure federal funds. Otherwise, Cuomo says schools, local governments, and hospitals all will see a 20% cut in funding.