Fifteen days ago, a KCP story and a number of corroborating reports exposed bodies being left unattended in a nursing home in Crown Heights and its staffers lacking the protective gear needed to do their jobs during the health crisis.
Since then, local officials, the city, and state have widely turned their attention to addressing issues of oversight within communities vulnerable to COVID-19, particularly to nursing homes.
This was the motivation behind Borough President Eric Adams and Council Member Robert Cornegy (D-Bedford Stuyvesant and Crown Heights) yesterday distributing personal protective equipment (PPE) to the Crown Heights Center for Nursing and Rehabilitation (CHC), 810 Saint Marks Avenue, as part of a broader initiative to outfit nursing homes throughout Brooklyn.
“Thank you all so much, it’s a blessing,” said Claudinalti Titus, Director of Health Activities for CHC.
About 200 gloves, 50 gowns, and over 500 N95 masks were delivered to the facility as Adams, Titus, and the nursing home’s staff gathered out front to receive it. The CHC staff present were covered from head, with hair nets and scarfs, to toe, with long PPE jackets, gloves, and face shields.
“In our communities, even our front line workers are kind of maligned,” said Cornegy, “The disease itself skews to have a negative impact on communities of color. Eric and I realized early on that the healthcare system, and the disproportionate way it allocates its resources, were only going to be exacerbated by this crisis.”
According to the borough president’s office, recent estimates show that close to a quarter of all COVID-19 deaths statewide are in nursing homes. To date, people aged 65 and above rate among the highest for COVID-19 deaths, while Black/African
Americans and Hispanic/Latinos continue to rate highest in confirmed cases, non-fatal hospitalizations, and hospitalizations that have resulted in death or known deaths, stated data from the Department of Health (DOH).
Despite his back and forth with the press and Mayor Bill de Blasio about the state’s responsibility for nursing homes, Governor Andrew Cuomo talked about reinforcing nursing home laws in his daily coronavirus press conference.
Cuomo also announced the DOH is partnering with Attorney General Letitia James to investigate nursing homes not communicating with families on COVID-19 test results and deaths. The attorney general, along with several local politicians in Brooklyn, were at the forefront of demanding action for elderly residents suffering in facilities across the borough.
The state doubled down on some rules, like requiring adequate PPE, temperature checks for staff, and isolating COVID residents. They added a few things as well.
Nursing homes must notify all residents and their family members within 24 hours if any resident tests positive for COVID or suffers a COVID-19 related death.
Staff should be separated with proper PPE, and infected residents within a facility transferred to another long term care facility or location. Positive residents can only be readmitted if the nursing home has the ability to provide adequate care under the new guidelines.
The DOH will inspect the facilities that have reportedly not complied with the guidelines. If a nursing home fails, the DOH will immediately require them to submit an action plan, and they could face a fine of $10,000 per violation or potentially lose their operating license.
“The goal is we can’t just chat with them at 7 o’clock, we have to support them around the clock. And that’s why we’re here,” said BP Adams, in closing.