State guidelines given to nursing homes do not reflect scientific research for dealing with COVID-19 patients, Rep. Tom Reed said during a Thursday press conference that followed a closed-door roundtable discussion with nursing home and health care officials earlier that day.

Reed said that he and the group of New York State lawmakers, nursing home administrators and regional hospital representatives who were present, fear for the safety and longevity of New York State nursing homes.

In response to critics of the state’s nursing home policies, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo has repeatedly said the state is following guidelines from the federal Centers for Disease Control.

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On May 10, Cuomo announced a mandatory rule requiring all nursing home staff to be tested for COVID-19 twice per week.

In an effort to assist nursing homes, the state government sent employees to these facilities. However, this edict did not require these state employees to be tested, Reed said.

“State employees are going in, interacting with these seniors … with no testing whatsoever,” Reed said. “It shows you that this policy we’re dealing with is not based on science and data.”

The testing requirements also pose a financial burden on the nursing homes, State Senator Thomas O’Mara, who also participated in the closed-door meeting and the press conference, said.

“It’s going to come at a cost of about $45 million a week to our health care industry to provide what has been described as not medically necessary testing,” O’Mara, a Republican representing New York’s 58th Senate District, said.

To cover the cost, state legislators turned to the CARES Act, O’Mara said.

“Today in the legislature… the Senate Republican Conference moved that $100 million of that CARES Act funding… be directed just for our nursing homes, to help with testing and other aspects including PPE,” he said.

He said the State Senate rejected the proposal, and the $750 million received by state government from the CARES Act remains unused.

The cost incurred by these tests, coupled with less than six days to be in compliance, leave nursing homes struggling to pay for them, another participant in the closed-door session and the press conference, President and CEO of Cayuga Medical Center in Ithaca Marty Stallone, said.

“There’s another big lack of clarity in payment for the testing,” Stallone said. “Now emerging payer statements and policies that claim the deemed medical necessity for testing not apply because of misinterpretation of the law.”

It remains unclear if medical insurance may serve as coverage, Stallone said.

Additionally, nursing homes potentially face repercussions for not following protocol.

“One of the things that the governor is holding over their head is that they’re either going to get fined excessively or they’re going to lose their license to stay open,” Reed said.

Still, nursing homes seek a practical approach to testing.

“I want to reiterate that the long-term care community is not averse to testing. It just needs to be based on a practical approach,” Michael Youmans, Chemung County Nursing Facility administrator and meeting and press conference participant, said. “I think that’s what everybody is advocating for: a collaborative approach where we can all come up with some common-sense solutions… that are based in science and data.”

For more information on the Coronavirus in the Greater Olean area, visit  TAPinto Greater Olean's Coronavirus Updates page, which is updated continuously.

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