Breaking News
More () »

New COVID-19 strategy for WNY nursing homes

Erie County Health Commissioner says widespread testing inside facilities is one of the goals of new coronavirus initiative.

BUFFALO, N.Y. — The Erie County Health Commissioner says there is a new state strategy for nursing home battling COVID-19. The new tactic involves the state health department visiting facilities and engaging in broad testing of all staff and residents.

“I’ve been told they have a strategy where they are trying to go to different nursing homes each day, test all residents and all staff for COVID-19 and then take the appropriate actions with those results,” says Dr. Gale Burstein.

Burstein indicated that this new strategy may already be underway in Western New York.

2 On Your Side has contacted the New York State Health Department (NYSDOH) about this new initiative. So far, there has been no response.

As explained by Burstein, NYSDOH would visit an area nursing home with the purpose of testing and examining whether the facility has adequate amounts of protective equipment for staffers. The goal apparently is to visit six nursing homes per week in the western region of the state, which Burstein explained includes Monroe County.

The strategy appears to be similar to what the Florida National Guard started doing last week. Fifty guard “strike teams” were assigned to visit the Sunshine State's nursing homes to assist with testing in facilities struggling with virus containment.

State Assemblyman Sean Ryan of Buffalo also sent a letter to the State Health Commissioner suggesting the idea of surprise inspections at nursing homes to make sure there is proper protective equipment and staffing levels. Ryan says the health department responded by requesting patience. 

The lawmaker says he would also like to see a 24 hour whistleblower hotline set up so that nursing home staffers could tip the state DOH to potential problems they see. 

2 on Your Side reached out to several local nursing home chains but they said they either did not know about the policy or were looking into it before they would comment. 

RELATED: State data shows elevated COVID-related deaths in Western New York nursing homes

RELATED: Learn How 2 Plant Your Own Herbs and Vegetables

RELATED: Father Baker Manor COVID-19 deaths double over 8 days

Before You Leave, Check This Out