As COVID-19 ravaged New York nursing homes, 62 of the facilities were cited for violations of infection-control standards, which are crucial to stopping the spread of viruses and other deadly diseases, federal and state data showed.
A USA TODAY Network New York review found the most serious violations revealed how poorly trained workers mishandled COVID-19 contaminated food trays, linens, gowns and mop buckets, potentially spreading the respiratory disease among countless frail and elderly residents.
Many nursing homes also failed to isolate infected residents, including cases of healthy residents left to live with roommates who tested positive for SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19. One facility was cited for potentially exposing 89 residents to COVID-19 due to the violations.
And amid widespread personal protective equipment shortages, one nursing home was cited for keeping its stockpile locked up improperly, endangering workers who complained they lacked masks, gloves and gowns, according to federal and state records reviewed by USA TODAY Network New York.
The investigation, gleaned from state and federal reports, offered the first comprehensive look at infection-control violations during the COVID-19 crisis inside New York nursing homes, where the disease has been linked to at least 6,475 resident deaths.
Among the findings:
- Inspectors cited infection-control violations at 10% of New York’s 613 nursing homes.
- A total of 95 health and safety violations overall were cited at 77 nursing homes, including six designated “immediate jeopardy,” the most serious threat to residents.
- The state Health Department has fined 23 nursing homes $328,000 in connection to the violations, with additional fines being considered at other facilities.
Despite the inspections, advocates warned nursing homes in New York and nationally remained ill equipped, understaffed and at heightened risk if COVID-19 surges again this fall and winter.
More needs to be done to disinfect nursing home facilities and protect the residents. These problems need to be clearly identified first and then proper action and protocols can be implemented to correct the issues.