Statement from New York State Health Commissioner Dr. Howard Zucker on Successful Nursing Home Testing Program

ALBANY, N.Y. (June 10, 2020) - “Governor Cuomo signed Executive Order 202.30 on May 10, requiring testing of all personnel of nursing homes and adult care facilities twice a week. Since then, more than 425,000 nursing home staff tests have been processed and this testing has led to more than 6,500 positive results for COVID-19 to date, with more than half of these positive results coming from facilities within New York City. Over the last three weeks, the weekly positive testing rate has declined from 3%, to less than 1% for the most recent week for which we have test results. For facilities in regions that have entered Phase 2, just 0.76% of test results this past week have come back positive, mirroring the tremendous progress New Yorkers have made to control COVID-19 spread. At the same time, the New York State Department of Health (NYS DOH) undertook an ambitious effort to test all of New York’s nearly 90,000 nursing home residents. This effort was completed over the weekend and we are working with facilities on appropriate next steps when positive cases are identified.

As a result of these ambitious testing operations, I believe we have successfully tracked and reduced the spread of the virus in long term care facilities. The results of these tests has allowed facilities to take steps to ensure those residents and staff who test positive do not spread the infection. Every step of New York's response to COVID-19 has been guided by facts, data, and following the guidance of public health experts. Based on the testing results to date, I have recommended to Governor Cuomo that moving forward, New York State follow CDC guidance in requiring nursing home staff to be tested once a week, and implement this for regions that have met the criteria to enter Phase 2 of New York’s reopening, and continue twice weekly testing in facilities that are still located in Phase 1 regions.

No state has been more aggressive than New York when it comes to testing at nursing homes, and our efforts have saved lives. Infection rates are decreasing across New York State, but now is not the time to let our guard down. The continued weekly testing mandate will continue to protect our nursing home residents and the front line workers who support them.

While some theorized the Governor's May 10 Executive Order would be an impossible mandate, what New York State was able to accomplish with this effort is nothing short of a tremendous success. The state quickly reserved lab capacity of more than 35,000 tests per day with major commercial reference labs which were connected to facilities, and dispatched to date nearly 1 million testing kits statewide. While some called this mandate unnecessary, these test results have identified thousands of positive cases of those who may have otherwise spread the virus to vulnerable residents. There is no doubt this directive saved lives."