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COVID-19

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NYC to provide virus tests, fill-in staff at nursing homes

UPDATED: Wed., May 20, 2020

In this March 31, 2020 photo, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio speaks at the USTA Indoor Training Center where a 350-bed temporary hospital will be built to support efforts in fight against COVID-19 in New York. (Frank Franklin II / associated press)
In this March 31, 2020 photo, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio speaks at the USTA Indoor Training Center where a 350-bed temporary hospital will be built to support efforts in fight against COVID-19 in New York. (Frank Franklin II / associated press)
Associated Press

NEW YORK – New York City will offer free coronavirus tests at the city’s 169 nursing homes and will provide staff to replace nursing home employees who test positive for the virus, Mayor Bill de Blasio said Wednesday.

“To me this comes down to, the seniors in our lives, what they have given us, what they mean to us, and what we owe to them, what we owe to them in terms of making sure they are healthy, making sure they are safe, always being there for them,” de Blasio said.

The announcement comes after some 3,000 residents of nursing homes in the city have died of COVID-19, including those confirmed whose diagnoses were by lab tests and those for whom COVID-19 was the presumed cause based on symptoms.

De Blasio noted that the state is in charge of regulating nursing homes, but said the city would start a “two-week blitz” to provide up to 3,000 tests a day to residents and employees at the facilities.

He said the city already has sent 240 fill-in staff members to replace nursing home employees who tested positive for the virus and must stay home for two weeks. The city will fulfill additional staffing requests by the end of next week, he said.

Additionally, 10 “outbreak response teams” will be available to assist nursing homes and adult care facilities that are experiencing coronavirus flareups, de Blasio said.

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo on May 10 ordered twice-weekly testing for all staffers at nursing homes and other adult care facilities. The order doesn’t apply to residents.

Other coronavirus developments in New York:

Religious services

New York will allow small religious gatherings starting Thursday as the state gradually loosens restrictions, Gov. Andrew Cuomo said.

Religious gatherings of up to 10 people will be allowed statewide as long as participants wear masks and practice social distancing. The state also is allowing drive-in and parking lot services.

The state will work with an Interfaith Advisory Council to discuss proposals to safely bring back religious services. The council consists of dozens of religious leaders, including Cardinal Timothy Dolan and Rev. Dr. Calvin Butts.

“I understand their desire to get to religious ceremonies as soon as possible. As a former altar boy, I get it,” Cuomo said. “But we need to find out how to do it and do it safely and do it smartly. The last thing we want to do is have a religious ceremony that winds up having more people infected.”

Other developments

The Bronx has been hit harder by the coronavirus than any other place in the New York City metropolitan area.

And within the Bronx, almost no place has been hit as hard as Co-op City. Data released by city health officials Monday revealed that the virus has killed at least 155 people living in the zip code that covers the complex.

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