HHS Secretary visits Buffalo, talks COVID-19 in NY nursing homes

Jun 4, 2020

Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar visited both Roswell Park Comprehensive Cancer Center and Buffalo General Hospital, Thursday, for a tour of the work the facilities are doing in both treatment and research on COVID-19. He also participated in a roundtable discussion with local business leaders on what they're doing to ensure safe re-openings.

HHS Secretary Alex Azar (second from right), pictured with Roswell Park staff on Thursday.
Credit Ryan Zunner / WBFO News

Azar touched on the coronavirus situation in New York nursing homes, where he said the state needs to do more in ensuring sanitary and safe conditions are up to code as COVID-19 still remains a threat.

“What we have found nationwide is that nursing homes that have generally have had lower quality of care are going to be the same ones that lack hygiene control, infection control, and have a spread of disease at higher fatality levels,” said the Secretary. “And that is exactly what we have seen here [in New York], and we need the state to step up on that.”

Azar criticized Governor Andrew Cuomo’s original mandate that forced nursing homes to take back COVID-19 positive patients.

“There is no CDC guideline saying you should be taking positive COVID patients and putting them back into the community in nursing homes, that’s why other states haven’t taken the same approach,” said Azar. “CDC guidelines simply say that nursing homes should have appropriate infection control to be able to deal with a positive case, should they have a positive case.”

Governor Cuomo said his reasoning behing the measure was to prevent an overloading of hospitals, as happened in Italy

Over 6,000 nursing home patients have died in New York as a result of COVID-19. According to Azar, increased inspections of nursing facilities by the state could lessen infection and fatality rates going forward.