ALBANY, N.Y. (NEWS10) — New York State Health Commissioner Dr. Howard Zucker said COVID-19 was likely brought into nursing homes by staff and visitors prior to the state’s restriction on visitation in a briefing on Monday morning. The finding is part of a report on COVID-19 and nursing homes released by the New York State Department of Health (DOH).

The report looks at the number of coronavirus cases among staff/residents and the mortality rate in nursing homes statewide. It also conducted a smaller antibody study among staff to determine what percentage has immunity.

Our analysis brings to the forefront the possibility of transmission from staff as an important mode of transmission. If states had accurate information about COVID transmission at an earlier time and had the testing capacity to detect asymptomatic but infected individuals, other procedures might have been taken. For example, all asymptomatic employees should have been barred from facilities as if they were symptomatic, which is the current policy.

Factors Associated with Nursing Home Infections and Fatalities in New York State
During the COVID-19 Global Health Crisis

Self-reported data showed that one in four nursing home workers had contracted COVID-19 between March and June, approximately 37,500 employees. There were 7,000 cases alone in March when the DOH said that more than a third of nursing home residents became infected.

In May, a small group of nursing home workers was tested for coronavirus antibodies by BioReference’s laboratory. They discovered 29%, or one in three, of the 3,500 tested had antibodies present. DOH said it indicates approximately 45,820 nursing home workers were exposed to the virus by the end of May.

The report also analyzed the highly criticized state directive saying nursing homes must accept COVID-19 patients from hospitals as long as they were medically cleared for discharge. DOH said there was no data to support the idea that the coronavirus entered nursing homes through direct hospital admissions because the virus was already there.

“However, an analysis of the timing of admissions versus fatalities shows that it could not be the driver of nursing home infections or fatalities. An individual nursing home-by-nursing home analysis of admissions versus fatalities further supports this finding,” the report said.