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New York City Stepping Up Support For Nursing Homes, Mayor Calls For More Home-Based Care

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) -- New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio says the city is stepping up its support for nursing homes, which have been hit particularly hard by the coronavirus pandemic.

The mayor laid out a four-part approach during Wednesday's COVID-19 briefing.

"We're reassessing a bit and we're coming to remember what we owe our seniors, and to appreciate them more, and to look out for them more, and to defend them more," he said. "To me, this comes down to what the seniors in our lives have given us, what they mean to us, and what we owe to them in terms of making sure they are healthy, making sure they are safe and always being there for them."

Mayor de Blasio Holds Media Availability on COVID-19 by NYC Mayor's Office on YouTube

De Blasio said the city will provide free, on-site coronavirus testing for all 169 facilities citywide. He estimates that will require 3,000 tests per day, adding the plan is to test each resident once a week and each member of nursing home staff twice a week.

"Whatever amount of tests they need, whatever amount of lab capacity they need, we will find it for them," de Blasio said.

As more staff members test positive and go into quarantine, the city will also provide additional personnel to cover any shortages.

The mayor said there are 10 outbreak response teams ready to help as needed. Each team has at least three people, including an epidemiologist.


Lastly, de Blasio called for a shift away from private facilities to more home-based care.

"Having folks at home is in many ways not only a better quality of life, but it's a better place to care for someone done right. It's a better place to make sure that people have the support they need," he said. "And by the way, if people are living at home, there's much less chance of being in a situation where they're exposed to a disease that's spreading."

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The mayor said that will be part of the recovery planning to bring the city back "stronger, better and fairer."

However, as CBS2's Marcia Kramer reported Wednesday, some experts believe the new measures may not stop the death toll. Nursing home and elder abuse attorney John Dalli said that while the mayor may be well intentioned, his plan ignores the reality of how nursing homes are staffed.

"The aides that are providing the care often times work in more than one facility. They also work in private homes to supplement their income, because, unfortunately, they're underpaid. I think tracking the aides with twice-a-week testing to insure they're virus free is going to be very difficult to do," Dalli said.

And given the massive cost of the pandemic to New York City, it's unclear where the mayor will find the money for his plan, Kramer reported.

As of May 18, there were 5,630 coronavirus-related deaths at nursing homes statewide, with 3,050 in the city alone. Those numbers include both confirmed and presumed cases.

Click here for a closer look at the state's nursing home data.

With so many deaths, relatives are demanding accountability.

Staten Island resident Laura Kump's 85-year-old mother, Else Hess, died of COVID-19 in a Queens nursing home in April.

"She was married to my father for 65 years. She raised me and my two brothers," Kump told CBS2's Dick Brennan. "My son had her first great-grandchild a month before she passed away, and she never got to meet him."

Watch Dick Brennan's report --

Kump blames Gov. Andrew Cuomo for a since-reversed executive order in March that allowed nursing homes to take recovering COVID patients who had tested positive into the facilities.

"My mother had to follow the orders of the governor as written, and as a result, my mother is dead," Kump said. "She deserved better."

On Wednesday, the governor said he puts the responsibility on President Donald Trump.

"Anyone who wants to ask why did the state do that with COVID patients in nursing homes, it's because the state followed President Trump's CDC guidance, so they should ask President Trump," Cuomo said.

When asked about calls for a federal probe into the matter, Cuomo said he wouldn't play politics.

"I don't, welcome, not welcome, it doesn't matter. President Trump does what he wants to do. He doesn't listen to a governor," he said.

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