EXCLUSIVE: Queens Rep. Meng, in White House letter, calls for new national notification policy for nursing home coronavirus victims and increased funds for testing

Apr 18, 2020
In The News

Queens Congresswoman Grace Meng, in a Saturday letter to the White House, called for the mandatory notification of families nationwide within 24 hours of any nursing home COVID-19 death or diagnosis.

The Democratic House member said family members, many barred from access to elderly relatives under quarantine at care facilities, need more details than they are receiving during the pandemic.

“Closure definitely is part of it,” she told the Daily News. “But basically, families need more information from the beginning — about tests, transfers, the reasons why their loved one died. Families need information.”

According to the state, the number of deaths at nursing homes and adult care facilities in Queens reached 734 — the highest total anywhere in the state. The numbers were made public after Gov. Cuomo signed an executive order requiring nursing homes to report coronavirus deaths and positive tests to family members using the same 24-hour time frame.

Nursing homes, filled with at-risk elderly residents, quickly became overrun with victims once the virus reached the states. A home in Washington state lost 43 residents early in the virus’ spread, while a Richmond, Va., home reported 46 deaths. A single Brooklyn nursing home reported 55 dead residents.

Meng, in her two-page letter to Queens native President Trump, also called for increased funding and testing for long-term care facilities given the disproportionate number of deaths there. One in every five New York state coronivirus deaths occurred in a nursing home, and Meng suggested using the Defense Production Act to increase the nation’s testing capacity.

“I implore you to use any means possible within your authority to expeditiously manufacture COVID-19 tests and prioritize New York in receiving these tests,” wrote Meng, noting that the state’s lack of testing makes “our fight against this highly contagious and invisible enemy even harder.”