Capital Region

Albany Co.’s McCoy: Nursing home fatalities shouldn’t count toward COVID-19 reopening benchmarks

Inclusion would make reopening 'nearly impossible,' he says
Albany County Executive Daniel McCoy in 2019
PHOTOGRAPHER:
Albany County Executive Daniel McCoy in 2019

Categories: News, Saratoga County, Schenectady County

ALBANY — The Capital Region hasn’t yet been authorized by the state to reopen.

And Albany County Executive Dan McCoy believes deaths at adult-care facilities should not be included in the overall number of deaths determining when regions can reopen — or close again following spikes in the infection rate.  

“If they don’t carve that number out, it’s going to be difficult,” McCoy said. “It would be nearly impossible to reopen.”

McCoy is a member of the Capital Region “control room” that is monitoring metrics of the pandemic as part of the reopening process, including infections, hospitalizations and deaths.

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The county executive also contends downstate patients receiving treatment at area hospitals shouldn’t count toward local totals and asked the state to provide clarification. 

The state Department of Health didn’t respond for comment on Tuesday, and Gov. Andrew Cuomo did not provide any clarity at his daily briefing in Johnson City.

But Rensselaer County Executive Steve McLaughlin, who is also a “control room” member, said that only hospital deaths will be counted toward the total, not deaths in nursing homes or other residential adult-care facilities.

But the death of a nursing home resident will be counted toward the total if the death occurs in a hospital, he said.

Nursing home residents account for the majority of COVID victims in some counties, and in Schenectady County, half.

Of the 195 deaths statewide on Monday, 53 were nursing home residents.

In Warren County, 23 of the 25 people known to have died with COVID infections have been residents of elder care facilities, and 12 of the 14 new infections reported Tuesday were nursing home residents.

All 10 of those dead of COVID in neighboring Washington County were residents of the same facility: Fort Hudson Nursing Center.

To reopen, regions must have fewer than five deaths in a three-day average or a 14-day decline in hospital deaths.

A spike would lead to local officials closing what Cuomo likens to a “valve.”

“You should never get to a place where those needles go into the red,” Cuomo said. “Closing means you reopened too fast.”

The Mohawk Valley, Finger Lakes and the Southern Tier have met the benchmarks and may allow construction, manufacturing and retail curb-side pickup on Friday.

Officials will use a phased-in approach to weigh opening additional sectors every two weeks.

New hospitalizations must decline for 14 days or maintain a three-day average of fewer than 15 new patients per day.

McCoy also wants more guidance on the state directive ordering nursing home employees to be tested twice per month.

A multi-day turnaround when it comes to receiving results may paint a confusing portrait owing to the lag, he said.

“You’re just going to be playing catch-up all the time,” he said.

Cuomo pushed back on criticism of the new directive.

“Whatever you do, people complain,” Cuomo said. “I think we need to do everything we need to do, and I don’t think it’s necessarily burdensome.”

The state will provide tests to any facility that asks for them, he said.

Schenectady County said it has enough test kits — for now.

“We have capacity for the first round of nursing home testing,” said Erin Roberts, a county spokesperson. “When that’s completed, we expect to receive a resupply from the Department of Health.”

Other benchmarks for reopening include bed and testing capacity. 

Statewide, select low-risk business and recreational activities will be allowed to resume on Friday, even in regions that haven’t cleared the benchmarks, including drive-in theaters, landscaping and gardening.

— John Cropley contributed reporting

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