Nursing homes in New York have become a flashpoint for coronavirus outbreaks.
Advocates and lawmakers want to make sure the facilities are better prepared for a potential second wave.
New York AARP State Director Beth Finkel said nursing homes need to be better prepared should the number of COVID-19 cases tick upward again.
“Nursing homes are still lagging behind and communities are feeling that in really a grievous way,” she said.
The group wants a statewide task force to oversee nursing homes during the pandemic.
“The governor and his administration has done a stellar job with hospitals. It’s been outstanding,” Finkel said. “Now they need to turn their attention to the nursing homes and make sure that same planing goes into place for the future.”
In the Legislature, lawmakers are sponsoring legislation to bolster protections for nursing home residents and staff. That includes transferring COVID-positive residents out of nursing homes, providing access to personal protective equipment and requiring better communications with staff.
“We should not have stories about people not being able to communicate with their loved ones, not being able to be physically present to advocate for them and to have total radio silence for days and weeks on end,” said Sen. Andrew Gounardes, a Brooklyn Democrat.
Gounardes is sponsoring the bill along with Assemblyman Ron Kim, who has lost a loved one to COVID-19 in a nursing home. Kim says the legislation puts more responsibility into the lap of the governor.
“It is our job to protect the most vulnerable members of our society,” said Kim, a Democrat from Queens. “With these new measures the governor and the Department of Health can no longer pass the buck to others on the lives of our most vulnerable seniors in nursing homes.”
Gov. Andrew Cuomo has called coronavirus in nursing homes “fire through dry grass.”
The state has adjusted some policies in recent weeks after criticism — including ending the practice of allowing COVID positive but asymptomatic staffers to continue working.
New York officials this week launched a statewide investigation of how the facilities handled the pandemic.