JOHNSON CITY — Nursing home staff who do not comply with state mandated diagnostic COVID-19 tests may lose their job, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo said Tuesday, after requesting $60 billion in federal funding to help New York.
The governor is expected to issue an executive order requiring all nursing home staff be tested for COVID-19 twice a week, starting this week.
Nursing home staff members cannot be forced to take a test, but Gov. Cuomo said workers who refuse to be tested do not have a right to work in a nursing home.
“I’d have to check with my lawyers because I always get myself into litigation I would say, unnecessarily. We can’t make you take a test,” Gov. Cuomo said. “If a test is available and there’s no cost to you, why wouldn’t you take the test? If you don’t want to take the test, why would we let you work in a nursing home and let you endanger a potentially vulnerable population?”
New York’s COVID-19 fatalities reached at least 21,113 on Tuesday — up from 20,918 on Monday. Johns Hopkins University & Medicine’s online COVID-19 tracker, which includes probable virus deaths in its tally, listed the state’s virus death toll as 21,835 on Tuesday.
The state saw 161 virus-related deaths Monday, including 142 in hospitals and 53 in nursing homes. The death rate is fluctuating slightly, but remains flat after 161 fatalities Sunday and 207 on Saturday.
“We’re just about where we were when we started before we saw the onslaught of the virus,” Gov. Cuomo said of the state’s daily death rate.
The state tested 1,225,113 people as of Tuesday, revealing 338,485 total positive cases of COVID-19. New York’s hospitalization rates continued a downward trend to 7,063 patients Tuesday, down 163, according to the governor’s office.
Three young New Yorkers recently died from inflammatory complications tied to COVID-19, including a 5-year-old boy, 7-year-old boy and 18-year-old woman. The complications cause inflammation of blood vessels and extremities, mimicking symptoms similar to severe illnesses such as Kawasaki disease and toxic shock syndrome.
New York hospitals have 100 reported cases of virus-related illnesses in children — up from 85 cases Monday. To date, the complications predominantly affect toddlers to young teens who do not exhibit respiratory or other typical coronavirus symptoms.
“It can affect the heart,” Gov. Cuomo said. “This is something that is just starting. This is truly a disturbing situation. I know parents around the state and around the country are very concerned about this and they should be. If we have this issue in New York, it’s probably in other states and probably hasn’t been diagnosed yet.”
Of the state’s 100 cases, 29 percent are ages 5-9; 28 percent are ages 10-14; 18 percent are 1-4; 16 percent are ages 15-19, 5 percent are less than a year old and 4 percent are ages 20-21, according to the governor’s office.
Medical attention should be sought immediately when a child has a fever lasting more than five days, severe abdominal pain, diarrhea or vomiting, a change in skin color, such as turning pale or blue, trouble breathing, decreased amount or frequency of urination, racing heart rate or infants having difficulty feeding or drinking fluids, according to the governor’s office.
Dozens of state medical officials are leading the investigation into the cases with Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The findings will be shared nationwide.
The National Governors Association renewed its bipartisan request Tuesday for the third time for $500 billion from the federal government to rebuild state economies. Gov. Cuomo first issued the joint statement with association Chairman Maryland Larry Hogan, a Republican, on April 12 and again April 17.
“Democrats and Republicans working together will make this statement, and Washington should listen,” Gov. Cuomo said.
The governor has pleaded for federal funding for state and local governments for weeks to prevent a 20 percent cut to schools, hospitals and localities as New York faces a minimum $13.3 billion budget shortfall.
The state needs $61 billion in federal support, Gov. Cuomo said Tuesday.
“Washington must act smartly,” Gov. Cuomo said. “There has to be a time in history when the federal government is willing to stop playing partisan politics. If it’s not through this experience, this crisis, it will never be.”
Several members of the state’s congressional delegation plan to push Gov. Cuomo’s proposed Americans First Law to prohibit corporations from receiving federal coronavirus funding if they do not rehire its same number of employees as before the pandemic.
The governor held up several masks sent to New York from across the country in the state’s fight against the pandemic.
“Even if it says nothing, it does say something,” Gov. Cuomo said. “When you wear a mask, you say, to everyone you walk past, ‘I respect you. I respect your health. I respect your privacy. I respect your space.’
“We have a reciprocal responsibility that says I am going to respect you and you’re going to help me and respect me. That’s how you battle community spread — with community unity. That’s what the mask says.”