BY BILL HAMMOND
Coronavirus infections are again rising in New York’s nursing homes, a sign that blanket testing, tight limits on visitors and other precautions have not fully isolated their acutely vulnerable residents from conditions in the outside world.
Nursing homes reported 308 new cases among residents during the week ending Oct. 25, up from a low of 79 for the week ending Sept. 6, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (see first chart). There were 21 COVID-19 weekly deaths reported on Oct. 25, up from a low of 4 on Sept. 27.
The facilities also reported 298 cases among staff on Oct. 25, up from a low of 198 for the week ending Sept. 13.
The average infection rate in New York facilities, at 49 daily cases per 100,000 residents, is also far lower than the national rate of 172 per 100,000 (see second chart).
But the caseload in New York homes is rising fast, jumping 254 percent since Sept. 13, compared to 37 percent nationwide.
That said, the latest nursing home numbers are a fraction of what they were in the spring, when tens of thousands of residents got sick and thousands died. (The full impact is unknown because the Health Department’s reports have omitted residents who were transferred to hospitals before passing away. The Empire Center has sued under the Freedom of Information Law to obtain the missing data.)
Another contrast to earlier this year is the regional pattern. Currently, infection rates are highest in the Southern Tier, Western New York and the Mohawk Valley (see third chart). In the spring, the pandemic was overwhelmingly concentrated in New York City and its neighboring suburban counties.
The trends roughly parallel a rise in the statewide infection rate, which has gone from fewer than 600 cases per day in late August to more than 4,800 on Tuesday. The increase led Governor Cuomo to announce new restrictions on Wednesday, including a ban on in-home gatherings of more than 10 guests and a 10 p.m. curfew for bars and restaurants.
The Cuomo administration has not recently discussed the rising rate in nursing homes or what it might do in response. The state already requires weekly testing of all residents and staff and bars outside visitors from homes that have recorded even a single infection in the previous 14 days.
Bill Hammond is the senior fellow for health policy at the Empire Center.