Nursing homes continue to be hard hit by COVID-19 as families suffer without information

Posted at 8:29 PM, Apr 17, 2020

It continues to be the growing crisis within the pandemic: nursing home deaths are skyrocketing throughout the tri-state area, as evident by new data released by the state of New York.

But families said even those new numbers downplay reality.

At least 26 people have died from COVID-19 the Sapphire Nursing Home.

p>“I really just want to make sure my mom’s OK,“ said Berna Lee, who said she has not been able to check on her non-verbal mother in a week.

Lee said many people on her mother’s floor died of COVID-19, and her mother is presumed positive. She said the facility is over-run and lacks the basic precautions, equipment and testing to handle the outbreak.

“I’m sure she’s disoriented, and scared...I just want to check in on her,” Lee said.

The situation is no better at Ozanam Hall nursing home in Bayside, where Mary Beihl’s aunt died last week.

The official death toll at the facility is nine, but staff has indicated to families the number is much higher.

Beihl said just getting basic information from the facility as her aunt deteriorated was impossible, and after she died, she was left in a room with the window open because the morgue was overrun.

”It’s a disgrace. She couldn’t even die with dignity,” she said. “She was alone, we couldn’t go up there, [they should have been] telling us what’s going on.”

The danger of coronavirus spreading through nursing homes has been known for months, with the first major outbreak in the United States in a home outside Seattle Washington.

However, it hasn’t stopped it from overrunning facilities on the other end of the country in New York and New Jersey.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo defended the state’s efforts at nursing homes Friday. He also signed an executive order mandating nursing homes be more transparent with the families of those suspected of having COVID-19.

“We’ve taken radical measures, no visitors, I mean just think about how harsh a policy that is,” he said.

But Assemblyman Ron Kim who represents Flushing, where Sapphire is, said there is more the state could and should be doing.

”All they’ve done until yesterday is called these centers and asked for data: how many people died, who went to funeral homes — not what can we do to help you, do you need PPE, do you need staffing,” Kim said.

Both Kim and Cuomo said ideally they want to do more testing, especially rapid testing, on the staff and residents moving out of these facilities. However, the capacity doesn’t exist right now.

That is of little comfort to Lee, who said everyone should have been better prepared.

”It was like watching a disaster happen in slow motion, because I saw what happened in Washington, and I see my mom as often as I can and I just kept seeing the map come closer to her,” Lee said.

This article was written by Henry Rosoff for WPIX.