Schenectady

Schenectady County has highest elder care deaths from COVID-19 in region

State pledges to release more data
The Kingsway Arms Nursing Center in Schenectady is pictured in March.
PHOTOGRAPHER:
The Kingsway Arms Nursing Center in Schenectady is pictured in March.

Categories: News, Schenectady County

SCHENECTADY — More people have died in Schenectady County adult-care facilities than any other county in the Capital Region.

Eight long-term care residents had succumbed to the virus as of Thursday afternoon, according to county officials, who declined to disclose specific locations.

“We don’t want to report from specific individual nursing homes that someone has died from COVID-19,” said County Manager Rory Fluman, citing protocols governing next-of-kin notifications.
 

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The deaths are not limited to one facility.

“I would say that they are all spread out,” Fluman said.

Visitation to nursing homes and adult-care facilities has been tightly restricted since last month under a state directive.

But officials have acknowledged that despite the safety measures, including screening and temperature checks for employees, limiting the virus’ spread has presented a challenge.

Of the 606 deaths statewide on Wednesday, 29 were in nursing homes, a number Gov. Andrew Cuomo called “relatively low” despite their vulnerability.

 

The virus has killed 11,586 New Yorkers to date, including at least 3,060 residents of long-term care facilities.

The eight deaths at Schenectady County facilities are the highest of any county in the Capital Region, and as of Tuesday, the most recent date for which statewide data is available, the 15th highest of all counties statewide.

Columbia County currently has seven nursing home deaths, confirmed Victoria McGahan, the county’s public health educator, on Thursday.

Albany and Rensselaer counties reported one death each as of Tuesday evening, according to state data, while Saratoga, Schoharie, Montgomery and Fulton counties each had none.

Thirteen Schenectady County residents have succumbed to the virus as of Thursday, the first 12 being residents over age 70. The latest death was a man in his 60s, the county said.

A clearer picture on fatalities is emerging after Cuomo said on Thursday the state will release more data on positive cases and deaths at long-term care facilities, including the locations.

It was a sharp reversal of his stance on Wednesday, when the governor cited federal privacy law and expressed concerns that data would be used to publicize specific cases, traumatizing families in the process.

Advocates, however, have argued that release of the information is important to protect public safety and better track the spread of the virus in the community, and no patient information would be revealed. 

Fluman confirmed on Thursday that nursing homes have been working with the state Department of Health to comply with the more detailed reporting requirements.

At least two homes in the region are combating outbreaks:

Pine Haven Nursing and Rehabilitation Center in Philmont, Columbia County, has 26 residents who have tested positive, McGahan said.

Thirty people have been sickened at the Pines in Glens Falls, the Post-Star reported on Tuesday.

And at least three nursing homes in Albany County have reported positive cases, the county’s health commissioner, Dr. Elizabeth Whalen, confirmed during the county’s daily briefing on Thursday. 

The extent to which the virus has infiltrated long-term care facilities in Schenectady County remains unclear.

There are no positive cases at Glendale Home, the county-run facility, Fluman said.

One resident tested positive after presenting mild symptoms at Kingsway Community, where a resident was previously transferred to Ellis Medicine and died March 29 after contracting the virus, a company spokesperson said.

No residents or staff members have tested positive at Baptist Health Nursing and Rehabilitation Center/Judson Meadows in Scotia, said a spokesperson.

Pathways Nursing and Rehabilitation Center in Niskyuna, which the governor visited last week to return a cache of ventilators, also does not have any positive cases, nor does Holiday at the Atrium, an independent living community in Glenville. 

Brookdale Senior Living Niskayuna declined to discuss specifics and directed questions to the state Department of Health, which did not respond for comment.

“We can confirm that more than one member of our Brookdale East Niskayuna community has tested positive for COVID-19,” said spokesperson Heather Hunter. 

Schenectady Center would not comment when asked about fatalities or positive diagnoses, referring questions to state health officials.

City resident Nadine Kohler said she feared for the safety of her mother, who is 98 and lives at the facility. 

While she appreciated the safeguards, she worried about asymptomatic staff who may bring the virus into the building.


“I used to be able to go there every single day,” Kohler said. “I fear I won’t be able to see her again during her lifetime.”

Schenectady Center staffers have been outfitted with proper personal protective equipment since early March, according to a spokesman.

“The facility has been working together with those state agencies with any updates — for example, testing — in relation to COVID-19,” Jeffrey Jacomowitz said. “Like always, the care for our residents and staff are first and foremost our No. 1 priority, especially during these times.”

Heritage Home for Women, Choice Connections and Ingersoll Place Assisted Living did not respond for comment on Thursday.

Schenectady County had 279 positive cases on Thursday and 27 hospitalizations.

To date, 612 people are under quarantine, 160 of them showing symptoms.

Residents of adult care facilities and nursing homes are included in the county’s quarantine totals, Fluman said.

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The Daily Gazette is committed to keeping our community safe and informed and is offering our COVID-19 coverage to you free.
Our subscribers help us bring this information to you. Please consider a subscription at DailyGazette.com/Subscribe to help support these efforts.
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