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While Onondaga County proactively tests senior communities, 19 have died at nursing homes

Van Duyn Center For Rehabilitation and Nursing Facebook
The Van Duyn Center For Rehabilitation and Nursing in Syracuse has seven confirmed or presumed deaths from the coronavirus.

Update: Data released Wednesday brought the total number of deaths from the coronavirus at nursing homes in Onondaga County, to 19. A previous version of this story had the total at 17.

There have been 19 confirmed or presumed coronavirus deaths at nursing homes in Onondaga County, according to the latest data released by the New York State Department of Health. While the county is proactively testing workers and seniors at assisted living facilities, regardless of if they have Covid symptoms, that’s not necessarily the case at nursing homes, which are regulated by the state. 

In the data released Wednesday, the Central Park Rehabilitation and Nursing Center in Syracuse had the most deaths in Onondaga County at four confirmed and four presumed. The Van Duyn nursing home had six deaths confirmed and one presumed. The Loretto Health and Rehab Center had one death. But Julie Sheedy, chief marketing officer at Loretto, said that death was not a Loretto resident.

The nursing facility at Loretto has an isolated, negative pressure, 16-bed Covid unit in their facility. They’re required to take Covid patients from the hospital who are on their way to recovery, and the victim was one such case.

“We still have no positive cases in our own skilled nursing facilities, of any positive residents, and no deaths," Sheedy said. "This specific situation was someone who came into our palliative care program, into the Covid unit.”  

Sheedy said while Loretto has been proactively testing workers and seniors in their assisted and independent living facilities, supported by the county, they have not yet been informed or instructed by the state to do so at the nursing home.

“That is a decision that’s made by the state Department of Health," Sheedy said. "They are doing that facility by facility and have been focused on where there are outbreaks. Loretto does not have an outbreak. So, we have not been proactively testing in the nursing home, specifically.”

Onondaga County Executive Ryan McMahon said the reality of the situation in senior care centers is why they’re proactively testing workers and seniors, regardless of if they have symptoms. And he said he’s pushing their state partners to do the same.

“We have sick people to begin with, now getting this virus," McMahon said. "I have a lot of fear about more bad outcomes in the future. We’ve done a lot to prevent, preserve and save lives with our proactive testing. But the reality is in some of these facilities, Covid was already there.”

McMahon estimated the county has done more than 2,000 proactive tests. The county has also had the problem of nursing homes sending people who tested positive, but show no symptoms, to the hospital. McMahon said those people don’t need to be in a hospital, they need to be isolated in a quarantine situation.

Tom Magnarelli is a reporter covering the central New York and Syracuse area. He joined WRVO as a freelance reporter in 2012 while a student at Syracuse University and was hired full time in 2015. He has reported extensively on politics, education, arts and culture and other issues around central New York.