Capital Region counties react to NYS reducing mandatory nursing home staff testing

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Nursing Homes Continue To Fight Against the Coronavirus

CAPITAL REGION, N.Y. (NEWS10) — County leaders had mixed feelings about a mandate to test every nursing home employee twice a week for COVID-19.

“Someone had to take all those lab reports off the system, print them all out, we then had to look at them all and separate the positives and negatives. Most of them very fortunately are negative. That’s very good, but we also have to report that to the administration of our nursing home and then they have to report it out to the employees and the state,” explains Rensselaer County Public Health Director Mary Fran Wachunas.

“It’s an administrative nightmare, and that’s twice a week. So by the time we get the results of the first testing, now the second one comes in. The Manor has 525 employees, so that’s 1050 a week,” says Wachunas.

“Two of the other homes here in the county that haven’t had positives had positive staff, and so it’s been a good thing. It’s been a positive thing, if you will pardon the pun, but because it actually got some staff out of the homes before they might have been able to affect residents,” says Columbia County Public Health Director Jack Mabb.

New York State just announced it will relax the mandate for areas in phase two of reopening. Now staff only need to get checked once a week — something Rensselaer County Executive Steve McLaughlin pushed for from the start of the executive order.

“The state was just throwing out these mandates, very often without listening to or consulting with those of us that are handling it on a day-to-day basis,” says McLaughlin.

He says now should be the time to get the ball rolling on family visits. He says he feels for families kept separated by coronavirus restrictions.

“It’s mentally cruel, it’s physically stressful and cruel, and it just needs to stop. You can’t on the one hand tell me how well masks work and how good social distancing is, and then why are you denying this?” McLaughlin asks.

“We’re in the really good weather months right now, and we feel that we can safely do outdoor visits, which I think everybody would be fine with,” he says.

However, Governor Cuomo said Thursday the time isn’t right, something Schenectady County Manager Rory Fluman agrees with.

“All it takes is one person who is infected who may not know that they have it to come into our nursing home and we could lose a quarter of our residents. So it’s a very serious topic. It sounds severe, but unfortunately it’s still important that we are socially distancing the public from our nursing home,” Fluman says.

“We urge for patience, I know that’s easy to say for me not having a loved one in a nursing home, but no one is alone in the desire to get families back into these nursing homes. It’s just that unfortunately we know, at the moment, but it’s not the right thing to do. I stand with the governor that it’s not the time,” he goes on to say.

Areas still in phase one of reopening will have to continue testing twice a week.

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