A New York state investigation is being launched to look into nursing homes’ handling of the COVID- 19 pandemic.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced Wednesday a full investigation by the state Attorney General’s Office. Questions surrounding the handling of the pandemic within nursing homes, including several in the Rochester-area, focus on safety, regulations, and notification.

“This is a very intense situation for nursing homes. We get it, but they still have to perform their job and do their job by the rules and regulations," said Governor Andrew Cuomo. "Those are the rules, if they're not being followed, they can be subjected to a fine, or they can lose their license. It's that simple.”

The New York State Health Facilities Association represents nursing and assisted living facilities throughout the state.  President and CEO Stephen Hanse said it is imperative that the state continues to work in partnership with nursing homes and assisted living providers to protect the vulnerable residents, and ensure safety to staff.

The governor outlined a list of mandates during his briefing. He stated by law, nursing homes must provide PPE, isolate COVID-19 patients, follow separation guidelines for patients and staff, notify residents and family of positive cases and deaths, and readmit positive COVID-19 patients if the facility can provide adequate care.

"If they do not have the ability to provide the appropriate level of care, then they have to transfer that patient, or they call the Department of Health, and the Department of Health will transfer that patient," said Cuomo.

"It is extremely dangerous to transfer a nursing home resident, whose average age, the average age of a nursing home resident in New York state is 83 years old, with multiple comorbidities, multiple conditions. So the last thing you want to do is transfer the resident from one location to another," said Hanse.

The Attorney General released the following statement:

“We launched a hotline where residents, families, or members of the public can share complaints about nursing homes that have not provided required communications with families about COVID-19 diagnoses or fatalities… Individuals can  file confidential complaints about nursing homes to the OAG online or by calling 833-249-8499.”

The governor says he expects the investigation will reveal why there are so many deaths at some nursing homes.

"So I think one of the things that will come out in the investigation is the fact that we do have insufficient staff, as a consequence of the COVID-19 pandemic, that we don't have enough PPE for staff. And our residents deserve to be top priority for COVID-19 testing," said Hanse.

"Nursing homes, they are our top priority. They have been from day one," said Governor Cuomo.

Hanse also says nursing home employees are working under very challenging circumstances and deserve recognition during this time.