What to Know
- Gov. Andrew Cuomo was back in New York City Monday visiting a new federally staffed COVID-19 vaccine hub in Brooklyn, trying to address the city’s racial disparity while getting support from local lawmakers to address vaccine hesitancy.
- Throughout the pandemic, the health disparities between minorities and whites have been highlighted. During the morning event, Cuomo once again noted that African Americans have died at twice the rate of whites.
- However, critics of the governor’s handling of nursing homes are not dropping their call for transparency.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo was back in New York City Monday visiting the largest federally staffed mass COVID-19 vaccine hub in Brooklyn, trying to address the city’s racial disparity while getting support from local lawmakers to address vaccine hesitancy.
Throughout the pandemic, the health disparities between minorities and whites have been highlighted. During the morning event, Cuomo once again noted that African Americans have died at twice the rate of whites.
With this in mind, New York State Assembly Member Latrice Walker joined Cuomo at Medgar Evers College in Brooklyn, the location of the largest mass vaccination site, to urge all qualified residents to get vaccinated.
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“I encourage residents in the qualifying areas to come down and get the vaccine," Walker said.
The mass vaccination site opened its doors on the heels of the governor announcing new rules for nursing home visitors that will start on Friday. Among the latest round of rules is required COVID testing for counties with positivity rates above 5 percent.
The governor previously said the state Department of Health will allow visits in accordance with CDC and Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) guidelines. Rapid testing for visitors is strongly recommended (but not required) in counties with COVID positivity rates below five percent over a seven-day rolling average. The state will provide free rapid tests to all nursing homes; visitors in the lower-COVID counties can also provide proof of a completed COVID-19 vaccination between 14-and 90 days before the visit.
However, testing will be required in counties with positivity rates between 5-10 percent on a 7-day rolling average, where visitors must either provide a negative test within the past 72 hours or be subject to a rapid test at the facility. Visitation is not allowed if the county's COVID rate is above 10 percent, with the exception of compassionate care.
Visits can be done in resident rooms, dedicated visiting areas or outside, depending on the needs of the resident and what the facility is able to provide.
Federal and state guidance only allow nursing homes to offer visits if the facility been COVID-19 free for at least 14 days, and many centers have kept their doors closed since New York’s winter surge began. The state also said that the number of visitors at one time cannot be grater than 20 percent of the number of residents. Click here for the full list of rules regarding nursing home visits in New York.
It was the guidance of both the CDC and CMS under the former Trump administration that Cuomo blames for a late March 2020 health department order that required those facilities to accept COVID-positive patients after they were discharged from hospitals if they had the capacity to do so.
That order, and later, the state's accounting of nursing home virus deaths, have become the subject of mass criticism against the Cuomo administration and the foundation of an ongoing federal investigation.
However, critics of the governor’s handling of nursing homes are not dropping their call for transparency -- even after Friday's conference in which he explained the reasoning behind his administration's thinking regarding the matter, saying "it is a lie to say any numbers were inaccurate."
Mayor Bill de Blasio once again said Monday that there should be a full investigation into the issue, and supports Cuomo losing his emergency powers if it means NYC is allowed to manage things like vaccinations.
Subsequently, on Monday, during a teleconference later in the day, the governor was asked whether his office has gotten any new subpoenas for information relating to the nursing home COVID-19 deaths. Although Cuomo didn't answer that question directly, but did say that when it comes to to the federal investigation he has been cooperating every step of the way.
"It's been ongoing since August," he said about the investigation. "Remember New York is No. 34 in terms of nursing home deaths and the March 25 memo that Mr. Trump liked to point to, that followed CDC guidance, which he left out. So, the inquiry has been going on since last August. We have complied with the inquiry and we will continue to."
Meanwhile, the city and state are hoping to catch up after a stormy week snarled distribution of the vaccine. The city said over the next few days they’ll get last week’s shipment as well as this week’s. Those hoping for appointments at the new vaccine hubs are trying to stay hopeful.
“I have faith they’re gonna get more so I’m just trying to stay positive about it," Crown Heights resident Kathy Kinion said.