1 in 13 NJ Nursing Home Residents have Died from COVID-19; Democratic Governors Failure to Protect Nursing Homes

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Rule #1 for mitigating the spread of and deaths from the Coronavirus has always been ‘protect the nursing homes’. It should go without saying a facility that houses the elderly, the sick, and the sickly elderly who are no longer able to care for themselves would be the easiest target for a virus that disproportionately kills the elderly and those with preexisting conditions.

According to CDC data, those over the age of 85 accounted for over 1/3 of all COVID-19 deaths nationwide. This trend is reflected in all states and all areas where outbreaks are present. 40% of New York’s COVID-19 deaths were people over 80, and 65% were over 70. New York is considered the epicenter of the U.S.’s outbreak, accounting for a quarter of America’s infections and 1/3 of deaths.

Still in New York, 89% of patients who succumbed to COVID-19 had a preexisting condition ranging from diabetes to heart disease, obesity, and frequently cancer. Of New York’s 23,000 deaths, only 14 were under the age of 20. Only 406, or 1.8% of deaths, were under 40.

New York’s huge wave of infections and subsequent deaths may be partially explained by their high population density. Cases are concentrated in the Big Apple with relatively low rates of infection in the far more rural upstate New York. Places where people are indoors and in close proximity are the most at-risk.

New Jersey, an equally dense state, experienced an equally massive number of infections and deaths. New York saw 18,500 cases and almost 1,500 deaths per million residents so far while New Jersey has a close 17,200 cases and 1,300 deaths per million residents; both are more than 4x higher than the national average.

States are seeing a common theme of where cases and deaths are taking place: nursing homes. The writing was on the wall for weeks and months leading up to the peak. Nursing homes are notorious for disease outbreak: old people with a laundry list of preexisting conditions and weakened immune systems from age, illness, and medications is who the virus primarily kills. This is true with COVID, this is true with the flu, this is true with every infectious disease; COVID’s preferred target is nothing new to doctors.

In New Jersey, the second hardest hit state, NJ.com reported, “more than 40% of the coronavirus deaths in the state have been tied to long-term care settings,” or approximately 1 in 13 residents of NJ nursing homes. That’s a shocking figure, and extremely preventable.

While NJ Gov. Phil Murphy [D] is blaming the owners of nursing homes, saying “the performance by the operators has been extremely disappointing — not in every case, but in too many cases. Uneven. Disappointing. Lacking in communication, lacking in basic blocking and tackling.”

An investigation into Murphy’s reponse to Coronavirus found:

Knowing nursing home residents were at grave risk, state inspectors did not begin making on-site inspections until April 16, according to officials — 36 days after New Jersey reported its first death and not until reports surfaced that one nursing facility was storing 17 bodies in a makeshift morgue. Asked why teams were not sent earlier, state Health Commissioner Judith Persichilli said in mid-April they did not have proper-fitting masks. She later said the state gave hospitals first dibs on protective equipment, leaving a short supply of ill-fitting masks for nursing home inspectors.

Nursing homes were short-changed for weeks on deliveries of protective masks and other equipment, known as PPE, which state and nursing home officials concede remains in critically short supply at dozens of facilities — increasing the chances of viral spread from resident to resident, according to nursing home operators and industry officials. “We were told flat-out, ‘No PPE for you, just hospitals,’” said the president of the state’s long-term care industry association.

When nursing home operators urgently called for staffing help, they said they received little assistance. Unlike other states, the Murphy administration did not move to deploy the National Guard into nursing homes until early May, and Guard members did not arrive until May 7 — weeks after at least six other states and more than two months after the first death in New Jersey.

The state Health Department did not announce until earlier this month it would conduct widespread testing of nursing home residents, even as an increasing share of the coronavirus deaths were coming from long-term care facilities. Nursing home operators said they desperately needed test kits, but said the state failed to respond to repeated requests.

The Health Department refused to publish a list of positive COVID-19 cases and deaths by facility until three weeks after families — prevented from visiting their loved ones since March 14 — pleaded with officials to force operators to let them know what was going on inside the nursing homes. Families desperate for information claimed in many cases, the first word they got was after a loved one was already critically ill.

A startling number of nursing home workers have succumbed to the virus. State data compiled by the Department of Health provided to NJ Advance Media show as of May 11 at least 89 nursing home employees have died from the coronavirus. Nearly 9,000 have tested positive for COVID-19.

NJ.com

Murphy ignored nursing home’s request for PPE and testing, forced potentially infected patients into the facilities, focused resources on closing public parks and issuing citations to protestors, leading to unnecessary death.

Unfortunately NJ is not unique. According to WKYC “70 percent of all Ohio COVID-19 deaths were patients of long-term care facilities, a toll so high the state is now conducting mass testing of residents and staff.” 81% of Minnesota’s COVID deaths are in nursing homes, and that number hits 90% in Connecticut. States with lower population densities are seeing almost all of their deaths in these facilities whereas states with large numbers of densely populated cities are seeing a lot of cases not associated with nursing homes because so many people are in such close proximity of each other; another primary cause of the spread. Though most young people are asymptomatic, widespread infections in densely populated urban settings increase the odds of a higher sum of death.

According to the New York Times, “at least 28,100 residents and workers have died from the coronavirus at nursing homes and other long-term care facilities for older adults in the United States.” At the time of publication, there were 81,000 deaths nationwide; nursing home fatalities accounted for 1/3 of all nursing home deaths.

“In 14 states, the number of residents and workers who have died accounts for more than half of all deaths from the virus.”

While every death is a tragedy, not traunching populations by risk level when infection risk and death rates is pure negligence and incompetence resulting in the failure to take preventative action to protect people most susceptible to the virus. Yet while Gov. Cuomo [NY-D], Gov. Murphy [NJ-D], Gov. Newsom [CA-D], etc. worried about ventilators, they actively put the most vulnerable at risk.

While states requested tens of thousands of ventilators, the peak came and went. Governors and Mayors, like NYC Mayor Bill DeBlasio [D] openly admit they only needed a fraction of what was expected. According to PolitFact, “there hadn’t been any cases where their hospitals couldn’t provide ventilators to COVID-19 patients who needed them, or they weren’t aware of any.” The media had criticized Trump for both not deploying enough ventilators during the early weeks of the outbreak and for suggesting the models predicting how many will be needed was too high. He was right.

It’s no surprise Democrats in major states are being trotted out as heros of the pandemic while making crucial errors resulting in the unnecessary deaths of thousands of old people. Cuomo, who’s been put on a media pedestal since late March, told reporters “my mother is not expendable” when asked about possible reopenings of the state, insisting any initiative to do so would put the elderly at risk.

However, according to the New York Times, “California, New Jersey and New York have made nursing homes accept Covid-19 patients from hospitals,” putting the elderly and most vulnerable at substantially greater risk than opening beaches, a move which drew heavy criticism to Gov. Ron DeSantis [FL-R] and has not resulted in any spikes in infection.

In fact, Florida has not seen any spike in cases or deaths since partially reopening with social distancing measures in place.

According to the National Review, “Florida went out of its way to get COVID-19-positive people out of nursing homes, while New York went out of its way to get them in, a policy now widely acknowledged to have been a debacle.” Yet, DeSantis was blasted on a daily basis by media pundits who blamed him for the tsunami of new infections that never came whereas Cuomo’s approach was littered with failures from his nursing home policy to waiting until early May to close and clean the subway system. Guess who’s praised as the ‘strong leader of the pandemic’ by the media.

DeSantis focused on protecting vulnerable populations without imposing overburdened regulations and restrictions on the rest of the population, successfully resulting in one of the lowest rates of infection and death for such a major state.

Under these directives, each implemented by their respective state’s health department, nursing homes were required to admit COVID-19 patients discharged from hospitals. It’s hard to estimate how many deaths were caused by these policies and how many lives could have been saved if COVID positive patients weren’t required to be admitted, but in retrospect these policies fail the initial smell test. It’s a rotten idea on its face considering the demographics and risks associated with the elderly. Though because these directives were put in place by Democrats, the failures are swept under the rug.



Categories: Opinion

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