Nursing home surge raises alarm

File photoPine Haven Nursing and Rehabilitation Center in Philmont.

CATSKILL - After using 89 of the county's 100 supply of COVID-19 tests, 17 residents and nine staff members at The Pines at Catskill Center Nursing and Rehabilitation facility have tested positive for the coronavirus, said county Legislature Chairman Patrick Linger, R-New Baltimore. 

The county health department is waiting for the results on one of the tests from The Pines, Linger added. 

“I don’t believe all residents and all [at The Pines] have been tested,” he said. “We had to use the tests we had in the smartest way. The state Department of Health does support us in testing our other facilities, we just have to get the tests to do it.”

Greene County planned to deploy the 100 kits in nursing homes throughout the county when a resident at The Pines at Catskill Center Nursing and Rehabilitation tested positive Friday.

The county public health department tested 89 people at the facility, Linger said.

“As of Saturday night there were only 10 [tests] left,” he said.

Testing was also performed at Home Sweet Home, Linger said, adding that he was only aware of positive patients at The Pines. The Home Sweet Home facility that underwent testing is located in Catskill.

Calls to The Pines were directed to Genevieve Worthington of National HealthCare Associates, which owns and operates The Pines. Worthington could not be immediately reached for comment.

“As of Saturday night, no one [with the exception of the initial patient on Friday] who had tested positive to that point was showing any symptoms, Linger said. “All of the those who tested positive were asymptomatic and were immediately placed on quarantine.”

The health department uses a tracing system to determine who else needs to be quarantined, Linger said.

Linger said he was only aware of one resident, the initial patient who tested positive on Friday, that required hospitalization.

The health department has been in contact with nursing homes and assisted-living facilities throughout the county, Linger said.

“They talked with all nursing homes and assisted-living homes in the county,” he said. “It’s up to them if they wanted us to come in and do testing or not.”

The state Health Department issued a directive to nursing homes March 25 saying facilities could not deny admission to a patient based on a positive COVID-19 test result, as long as the patient was medically stable.

“There is an urgent need to expand hospital capacity in New York state to be able to meet the demand for patients with COVID-19 requiring acute care,” according to the directive. “No resident shall be denied readmission or admission to the [nursing home] solely based on a confirmed or suspected diagnosis of COVID-19. [Nursing homes] are prohibited from requiring a hospitalized resident who is determined medically stable to be tested for COVID-19 prior to admission or readmission.”

Older Americans are more at risk of contracting the virus, according to statistics from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Eight out of 10 deaths blamed on COVID-19 reported in the U.S. have been adults 65 or older, according to the CDC.

Linger said it is unclear if the state will make more tests available.

“We have an order in for 1,000,” he said. “We don’t know if or when they’re going to come. We’re getting hold of [Columbia Memorial Health] to see if they had any available there.”

Greene County made the request through the state’s Emergency Management Portal, through the governor’s office, via state representatives and through the state Department of Health, Linger said.

Assemblyman Chris Tague, R-102, and his staff spoke with Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s office to advocate for more COVID-19 tests in Greene County after speaking with Linger about The Pines outbreak over the weekend.

“They said they were concerned and that they would do whatever they could to help the folks in Greene County out,” Tague said.

Greene, Rensselaer and Saratoga counties are each expected to get a shipment early this week of personal protective equipment from the state stockpile, including masks, gloves and more, Tague said.

The assemblyman and his staff received requests last week from mountaintop fire departments in Hunter and Tannersville for more PPE.

“If my staff and I can help, we’ll help anybody — we’ll get in touch with any representative,” Tague said.

U.S. Rep. Antonio Delgado has also been advocating for more testing in Greene County, he said in a statement.

“I have been in touch with officials in Greene County about ensuring tests for our community, and I am greatly concerned about the reported COVID-19 outbreak at The Pines in Catskill, as well as nursing homes across our region,” Delgado said. “I will continue to work alongside state and local partners to make sure Greene County, and all 11 counties in New York’s 19th Congressional District, can secure easily accessible COVID-19 tests. As accessibility to tests increase, the number of confirmed cases will also continue to increase. Testing is critically important to tracking and addressing the coronavirus outbreak, and I will continue to make this an urgent priority in future federal legislation.”

Columbia County also received 100 tests from the state last week and purchased an additional 1,000.

“We’re OK at the moment,” Columbia County Public Health Educator Victoria McGahan said, referring to the test supply. “Because the number is not the number we’d like to have, we’re being very strategic with how we administer those tests.”

Pine Haven Nursing and Rehabilitation Center in Philmont has had 23 residents test positive. Six of those residents died, McGahan said.

Livingston Hills Nursing and Rehabilitation Center has one COVID-19 case, McGahan said.

McGahan said she was unsure how many nursing-home patients have been hospitalized. McGahan also did not know if all the nursing homes in the county had received tests.

“The criteria is still strict,” she said. “Even if they are in a nursing home, unless they are symptomatic and had contact with a positive case, the criteria is still very strict. We haven’t gotten all the testing we are planning on getting.”

Residents can still be tested at sites at UAlbany and Tech City in Kingston. To be tested in Albany, call the state’s COVID-19 hotline at 1-888-364-3065. Callers go through a screening process to be approved for testing, at which point they will receive a PIN number.

To be tested at the Kingston site, your primary care physician must order a test. If you do not have a primary care doctor, call the Ulster County COVID-19 hotline 845-443-8888.

As more labs have come on board, testing has become more efficient, Linger said, with results in about 48 hours.

EDITOR'S NOTE: This story has been changed to reflect a correction identifying the Home Sweet Home facility that underwent testing was in Catskill, not Athens. Thank you.

Johnson Newspapers 7.1

(1) comment


The State should quickly reconsider the policy of compelling nursing homes to admit a client who has tested positive for COVID-19 or who clearly is displaying symptoms. This policy puts all residetns and staff of the nursing home at risk as most do not have the isolation capabilities or ppe equipment, and perhaps training, to handle COVID-19 patients. They should go immediately to the hospital, or be treated under proper care somewhere other than a nursing home.

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