A Long Island veteran’s home has become the latest facility in the tri-state to see COVID-19 wreak havoc on its residents, leaving 52 dead and 65 sickened.
The Long Island State Veterans home flew flags outside the facility at half-staff on Friday, as a way to honor those they had lost.
The daughter of one resident – 99-year-old WWII veteran John Milone, who has lived at the home for more than seven years – says the center didn’t handle the virus properly. Kathy Caruso said a resident housed near her father tested positive for the coronavirus in March, but when she asked if that person had been placed in isolation, an employee at the 350-bed facility told her no.
“She said no he’s walking around with everybody else, and I said oh my gosh, you’re kidding me,” Caruso told NBC New York. “This didn’t have to spread to so many residents there if they could have isolated.”
Days later, Caruso’s father tested positive and had to be hospitalized, just one of dozens at the nursing home to be infected. In addition to residents, 53 staff members (out of the 114 who work there) have also been infected.
However, a look on the veterans home’s website said that sick residents have been placed under proper quarantine restrictions, and that the center follows CDC, VA and New York State Department of Health Guidelines. Officials said that the staff “continues to mourn the loss of our residents, as these heroes have taught us over the years about bravery, courage and honor.”
Caruso’s father, who survived the sinking of his aircraft carrier in 1942, has remained hospitalized since Easter – now in another difficult fight for his life, and must do it without his family.
“The roughest part is the thought that possible he wouldn’t have gotten this, and it could have been prevented,” Caruso said. She praised the staff and said when her father recovers he will return to the center, but wonders if it could have been avoided.
“I pleaded and pleaded and I kept telling them isolate before it’s too late and I sent them emails with no responses,” she said.
The federal government is also under pressure to track the deaths at these care facilities due to the staggering death rates.
Many individual states have added to the lack of transparency by releasing only totals of infections and deaths and not details about specific outbreaks. Foremost among them is the nation’s leader, New York, where nursing home deaths have accounted for about 22 percent of the state’s entire death total — but has so far refused to detail specific outbreaks, citing privacy concerns.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo said Thursday that the state Department of Health and state Attorney General Letitia James’ office would be investigating to see how nursing homes are meeting regulations including alerting all residents and their family members of coronavirus cases and fatalities. Non-compliant facilities could face $10,000 fines per violation or lose their licenses.
There have also been numerous cases in New Jersey where dozens of residents have died, some living in squalid conditions even before the pandemic broke out. One home in Elizabeth has had as many as 65 deaths connected to COVID-19 reported.