Coronavirus Update (April 15): Nearly Half of Suffolk’s Dead Lived In Adult Care Facilities

More than 40 percent of Suffolk County’s Covid-19 fatalities were residents of nursing homes and adult care facilities, according to data released late Monday by New York State.

The state reported that 155 Suffolk nursing home residents and 97 adult care facility residents had died from Covid-19 in Suffolk County as of April 13, for a total of 252 out of Suffolk’s 618 deaths. That puts 41.5 percent of Suffolk’s deaths in these facilities.

The fatality data includes residents of these facilities who died in hospitals.

Statewide, 2,722 residents of these facilities had died of Covid-19 as of April 13, out of a total of 10,834 deaths, which is 25 percent of the total number of deaths in New York.

Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone said in his Tuesday afternoon briefing that the virus was likely spreading in nursing homes here, unknown to public health officials, before the county reported its first case on March 8.

“This is exactly the population the virus attacks so viciously,” he said.

Covid-19 is particularly deadly both for people living in close quarters, and for senior citizens, making adult care facilities and nursing homes a particularly deadly place for the disease to spread.

Statewide, 64.8 percent of New York’s deaths have been among people over the age of 70, regardless of whether they live in adult care facilities, according to state health department statistics.

While the state has not released data on the facilities where these deaths are occurring, the Peconic Landing life care community in Greenport, which saw an outbreak in early March, had reported that nine of its residents died from Covid-19 between March 20 and April 5.

An employee of the facility was the county’s second confirmed case, after which more than a dozen employees and residents tested positive for the virus. New York State assisted the life care facility in expanded testing to isolate people who had contracted the virus.

As of April 5, Peconic Landing reported that seven of its residents were still battling the virus in the community’s health center and seven employees were still positive for Covid-19.

New York State Health Commissioner Dr. Howard Zucker said at Governor Andrew Cuomo’s Monday briefing that the state would not release the nursing-home specific Covid-19 information due to privacy laws.

“This is their home, these nursing homes are their home, and we want to make sure we protect their privacy in that sense,” he said.

But Mr. Cuomo pushed back, asking that the data be released to the extent allowed by law.

At Tuesday’s briefing, for the first time, Mr. Cuomo included a graph of ongoing nursing home deaths in his daily update on the virus’s effect on the state, saying the number of deaths in nursing homes has been an “increasing issue,” with 133 deaths in these facilities on Monday.

“You can not hermetically seal a nursing home. You can’t put it in a bubble and say I can protect these vulnerable people. You can’t,” he said. “That is the vulnerable population in the vulnerable place. We’ve been worried about nursing homes since day one. The percentage of loss of life is getting higher in the nursing homes compared to the hospitals.”

While Mr. Cuomo reported that new hospitalizations and intubations throughout the state were “essentially flat,” showing that New York is flattening the curve, he reported an additional 778 deaths in the state. Deaths per day had been in the high 700s all last week before dipping to 671 on Easter Sunday.

“We are essentially flat, but at a devastating level of pain and grief,” he said.

Mr. Bellone, the Suffolk County executive, also reported Tuesday that there had been 40 additional Covid-19 deaths in the county in the past 24 hours, bringing the total number of deaths to 618.

Mr. Bellone reported the total number of hospitalizations in the county has increased by 13 to 1,608, with 531 people in ICU, down eight people from Monday. He also reported that 108 Covid-19 patients had been discharged from the hospital in the past 24 hours, with 607 hospital beds available throughout the county, 98 of them in ICU.

As of Wednesday morning, there were 23,225 confirmed cases of the virus in Suffolk County, with 332 in Southampton Town, 242 in Southold, 232 in Riverhead, 105 in East Hampton and six on Shelter Island. West of here, cases in Islip have ballooned to 6,020, and in Brookhaven have grown to 4,274.

In a Wednesday morning report on CNN Mr. Bellone gave television reporters a view of the Suffolk County morgue, which is now full. The county is now storing bodies of the dead in two refrigerated trailers, he said.

Standing outside the morgue, Mr. Bellone warned leaders of other suburban communities about “how quick this happens and how intense it gets.”

Beth Young

Beth Young has been covering the East End since the 1990s. In her spare time, she runs around the block, tinkers with bicycles, tries not to drown in the Peconic Bay and hopes to grow the perfect tomato. You can send her a message at editor@eastendbeacon.com

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