Friday was day 356 of the COVID-19 pandemic since counting began for New York state.
Infection numbers are still falling, as the Friday average statewide positivity rate was 3.49%.
In Oneida County on Feb. 18, there were 43 new positive cases, and two deaths. Across the state on Thursday, 116 people died from COVID-19.
There were 48 patients hospitalized in Oneida County with 41 at Mohawk Valley Health System and seven at Rome Health.
In a Friday press briefing, Gov. Andrew Cuomo noted that he was in favor of schools opening back up as remote learning was putting families at a number of disadvantages to future success.
Twelve percent of New Yorkers have received at least one dose of the two-dose vaccine.
It was announced that the state Department of Health, “will allow visitation of residents in nursing home facilities in accordance with (Centers for Medicare and Medicaid services and the Centers for Disease Control) guidelines. The Department of Health recommends that visitors take a rapid test before entry into the facility, and DOH will provide rapid tests to nursing homes at no cost. Guidance on visitations will be available beginning Monday, February 22,” according to a statement.
Cuomo also said that as of Friday, 73% of residents in nursing homes across the state have been vaccinated, and that the remaining percentage are people who declined to receive the vaccine.
More on nursing homes
The governor again addressed the heavily growing public and lawmaker criticism of his March 25 decision to allow nursing homes to accept COVID-19 patients being discharged from hospitals to recover.
In recent numbers it is estimated almost 15,000 people died from COVID-19 related illnesses in nursing homes since last spring.
Also speaking to the issue was Dr. Howard Zucker, the state Department of Health commissioner.
Zucker reiterated Cuomo assertions that at the time the March 25 order was made, they were making decisions based on federal guidelines and that community spread projection models were showing New York needing over 100,000 hospital beds in order to handle then-anticipated capacity.
Cuomo and Zucker both noted that there are only 50,000 hospital beds across the state, with 30,000 of them being at hospitals in the New York City area.
Zucker stated that in the period of March 25 to May 10, over 84,000 COVID-19 patients cycled through hospital beds across the state.
The health department head said last spring the goal was to flatten the curve, and their strategy to accomplish that was to protect the healthcare system by balancing patient load.
So, that’s how patients ended up recuperating in nursing homes after leaving a hospital based on the March 25 order.
And the virus spread handily through facilities.
“It’s unfortunate. It’s tragic. But it’s true,” Zucker said of the situation surrounding the March 25 order, adding that since May of 2020 no resident has been admitted to a nursing home without a negative COVID-19 test, but health officials are still seeing outbreaks.
Cuomo on nursing home reforms
In a separate Friday announcement, Cuomo touted sweeping nursing home reform legislation to increase transparency, hold nursing home operators accountable for misconduct and help ensure facilities are prioritizing patient care over profits.
“The COVID-19 pandemic exacerbated existing health equity and access to care issues among all communities, however, the State’s minority communities and older adults have been disproportionately affected. These reforms would make permanent the lessons learned from the COVID-19 pandemic to improve the health and safety of nursing home residents, as well as the quality of services in nursing home facilities,” a statement reads.
The Governor stated, “Every day, families across the state entrust the safety and health of their loved ones to nursing homes and as this unprecedented public health crisis has shown, some performed admirably, but some did not … These facilities must be transparent and we have to have the tools necessary for holding bad actors accountable - that is the only way families will have peace of mind and I won’t sign a budget that doesn’t include these common-sense reforms.”