Local family concerned about COVID-19 testing protocol for staff of home for people with developmental disabilities


CAPITAL REGION, N.Y. (NEWS10) — In May, New York State required that staff coming in and out of nursing homes be tested for COVID-19 twice a week. A local woman was concerned to learn the same isn’t true for the group home for people with developmental disabilities where her relative lives.

The woman wants to remain anonymous, but told NEWS1O ABC, “I was under the assumption that, because of the nursing homes, all staff had to be tested who were working closely, supervising, bathing, feeding, giving medications to, and basically living for 8 or more hours with the disabled. That is not the case.” She says her relative tested positive for the virus in April, which was before the State’s nursing home testing mandate.

The New York State Office for People with Developmental Disabilities (OPWDD) says they have not opted for weekly testing because their agencies are smaller, home-like settings, for a younger demographic with a lower level of medical care than a nursing home population. They added that their residents can live with peers and participate in their communities while receiving support from direct support professionals.

OPWDD has taken the threat of COVID-19 to the people we support and the broader community very seriously and all staff are fully trained on infection control practices, PPE use and quarantine protocols. Group homes are required to quarantine people we support who are positive for COVID-19 and follow guidance from their local health department on length of quarantine.  OPWDD’s current staffing guidance which is attached outlines protocols for handling positive cases in group homes.

NYS Office for People with Developmental Disabilities

“How did my family member [contract] this? My family member had not left the home,” the anonymous woman told News10, “when COVID hit in March, all the group homes across the state were mandated to close all day programs.”

The only people coming and going, she claims, were staff members.

Visitation was suspended at group homes on March 13th and resumed on June 19th.

NYS Office for People with Developmental Disabilities

While her relative ended up being okay, she did have an on and off fever, and symptoms that lasted about a month. She claims the rest of the residents tested positive, too, but were asymptomatic. She says she fears her relative getting sick again, as she has heard that the home has had cases again since the first round in April.

As of 7/27/2020, out of the 38,000 people supported by OPWDD and our service providers in over 7,000 residential settings across the state, 2,621 have tested positive for COVID-19, and with great sadness we report that 389 of that number have passed away due to COVID-19.

NYS Office for People with Developmental Disabilities

In June, State Health Commissioner Dr. Howard Zucker recommended that nursing homes reduce testing to only once per week. However, language in the most recent guidance from New York maintains the twice-weekly rule.

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