NEW YORK (AP) — New York City will offer free coronavirus tests at the city's 169 nursing homes and will provide staff to replace nursing home employees who test positive for the virus, Mayor Bill de Blasio said Wednesday.
“To me this comes down to, the seniors in our lives, what they have given us, what they mean to us, and what we owe to them, what we owe to them in terms of making sure they are healthy, making sure they are safe, always being there for them,” de Blasio said.
The announcement comes after some 3,000 residents of nursing homes in the city have died of COVID-19, including those confirmed whose diagnoses were by lab tests and those for whom COVID-19 was the presumed cause based on symptoms.
De Blasio noted the state is in charge of regulating nursing homes, but said the city would start a “two-week blitz” to provide up to 3,000 tests a day to residents and employees at the facilities.
He said the city already has sent 240 fill-in staff members to replace nursing home employees who tested positive for the virus and must stay home for two weeks. The city will fulfill additional staffing requests by the end of next week, he said.
Additionally, 10 “outbreak response teams” will be available to assist nursing homes and adult care facilities that are experiencing coronavirus flareups, de Blasio said.
New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo on May 10 ordered twice-weekly testing for all staffers at nursing homes and other adult care facilities. The order doesn’t apply to residents.
Other coronavirus developments in New York:
New York will allow small religious gatherings starting Thursday as the state gradually loosens restrictions, Gov. Andrew Cuomo said.
Religious gatherings of up to 10 people will be allowed statewide as long as participants wear masks and practice social distancing. The state also is allowing drive-in and parking lot services.
The state will work with an Interfaith Advisory Council to discuss proposals to safely bring back religious services. The council consists of dozens of religious leaders, including Cardinal Timothy Dolan and Rev. Dr. Calvin Butts.
“I understand their desire to get to religious ceremonies as soon as possible. As a former altar boy, I get it,” Cuomo said. "But we need to find out how to do it and do it safely and do it smartly. The last thing we want to do is have a religious ceremony that winds up having more people infected.”
MORE NEIGHBORHOOD TESTING
Cuomo said targeted testing and outreach will be expanded in low-income New York City neighborhoods that have been hotbeds of the outbreak.
Results from roughly 8,000 antibody tests conducted at New York City church sites indicate what previous data have shown: low-income and non-white neighborhoods in the city have been especially hard hit by the pandemic. For instance, while the positive rate for antibodies citywide is 20%, it was more than twice that in Morrisania in the Bronx, according to preliminary results cited by Cuomo.
“The spread is continuing in those communities and that’s where the new cases are coming from,” Cuomo said.
The expanded testing will include 72 churches and faith-based sites and more sites at public housing developments.
Efforts to stop the spread of the disease will include making more protective gear available and more education.
Cuomo said he is directing all local governments to test low-income communities and to develop outreach programs.
The Bronx has been hit harder by the coronavirus than any other place in the New York City metropolitan area.
And within the Bronx, almost no place has been hit as hard as Co-op City. Data released by city health officials Monday revealed that the virus has killed at least 155 people living in the zip code that covers the complex.