Some nursing homes in the area are reeling from the impacts of the coronavirus pandemic. All nursing homes are now being asked to ramp up testing on their employees. All nursing homes are responsible for conducting twice-weekly COVID-19 testing on their workers beginning next week, according to an executive order signed May 7 by Gov. Andrew Cuomo.

It doesn’t take a medical genius to figure out the logic. Older people are more susceptible to COVID-19 than younger adults because of underlying health conditions that leave them too weak to fight the virus.

The governor’s order comes after months of limited testing capacity caused by supply chain breakdowns, which public officials said hampered their ability to halt the spread of COVID-19. Nursing home operators will be responsible for buying kits and carrying out the twice-weekly testing, health officials said.

In some counties, such as Livingston County testing the roughly 400 employes at the county-owned Center for Nursing and Rehabilitation twice a week means an additional 800 tests in a county that this week tested a total of around 600 people.

But the vigilance is important. As of Friday, the CNR and privately-owned Conesus Lake Nursing Home in Lakeville have yet to report a case of COVID-19 among its residents.

Contrast this to The Villages of Orleans Health and Rehabilitation in Albion or Avon Nursing Home in Avon. The two facilities have been the subject of calls for state investigations as they have struggled to contain the virus. At The Villages, a 120-bed facility, there have been 78 confirmed cases of COVID-19 and 20 of those residents have died. Orleans County itself has had a total of 154 cases. The smaller Avon facility has had 18 confirmed cases and five deaths.

It’s difficult to understand why local and state governments took so long to pay serious attention to nursing homes, where COVID-19 outbreaks spread exponentially because of the lack of social distancing. The death toll in nursing homes rose quickly at the apex of the pandemic.

Nursing home officials tried to keep COVID-19 out of their buildings. They took what precautions they could: banning visits from relatives who might carry the virus inside with them; clothing employees in face masks, shields and disposable gowns to prevent them from transmitting the disease and protect them from it; and begin testing of as many residents and employees as possible.

All the effort did not stop COVID-19 from gaining entry.

Two months into the pandemic, the state is mandating nursing homes to increase their rate of testing employees and will hold them accountable. More has to be done to protect our older neighbors. We have to do all we can before it is too late.

Johnson Newspapers 7.1