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State to investigate nursing homes' handling of COVID-19 

Governor Andrew Cuomo said Thursday that state agencies are opening an investigation into New York nursing homes that might have violated rules regarding how to care for residents with COVID-19.

The new scrutiny on nursing homes comes after some families complained that they weren’t notified about the health status of their relatives in some facilities, or even told whether any residents were sick with the coronavirus.

The Democrat and Chronicle detailed some of those complaints on Monday in an article it published on the Hurlbut Nursing and Rehabilitation facility on East Henrietta Road. It also reported that the coronavirus has spread through facility, infecting dozens of staff members and patients, and leading to the death of seven patients.

That report led Monroe County Public Health Commissioner Dr. Michael Mendoza to write the state and ask for an investigation into “the accuracy and reporting of COVID-19 cases and deaths” at the Hurlbut facility.

“This investigative report is particularly troubling to me because it does not match the report of nursing home deaths by facility that NYSDOH released last week,” Mendoza wrote.

Many nursing homes are privately owned, but they are regulated by the state. Under current rules, nursing homes are supposed to supply all staff with personal protective equipment, check the temperatures of all employees who enter the facility each day, and ban visitors.

If a resident contracts the virus, they need to be quarantined from the others. If the nursing home can’t do that safely under Centers for Disease Control guidelines, they must transfer the patient to a facility that can care for them. And families need to be notified within 24 hours if their relative tests positive for the virus, or has died from COVID-19.

The Attorney General’s Office will work with the state Department of Health to investigate allegations that some of the homes aren’t following the rules. The governor said he understands that the nursing homes are in a “crisis situation” and under a lot of pressure.

“This is a very intense situation for nursing homes; we get it,” Cuomo said. “But they still have to perform their job and do their job by the rules and regulations.”

He said those found to be violating the rules will be fined, and in some cases could lose their operating license.

The Attorney General’s Office has set up a hotline for nursing home residents and their families, as well as members of the public, to file complaints about facilities, including claims that they haven’t communicated with families as required or followed rules meant to keep residents safe. Reports can be made at ag.ny.gov/nursinghomes or by calling (833) 249-8499.

Karen DeWitt, Albany correspondent for WXXI News, contributed to this report.

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