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NY relaxes testing requirement for nursing home staffers

NYS Health Dept.

Nursing homes in some parts of the state can now test staff for COVID-19 once a week, down from a sweeping twice-a-week mandate that began last month.

State Health Commissioner Howard Zucker said Wednesday that infection rates had fallen to the point where less rigorous testing was acceptable.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo ordered the testing regime May 10 in an attempt to belatedly stem the spread of the coronavirus through nursing homes. To date, at least 6,100 nursing home residents have been killed by the virus, including people who died before a test could confirm their diagnosis.

Nursing homes will be able to reduce testing to once a week in parts of the state that have begun the second phase of the state's reopening plan. Twice-a-week testing would continue in New York City, which entered the first phase of reopening Monday.

Leaders of nursing homes and their industry groups argued for weeks that mandatory testing was costly and logistically difficult, requiring roughly 185,000 workers to get tested twice a week.

Zucker said said the program has been a success with more than 6,500 nursing home staff testing positive for COVID-19.

"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," Zucker said.

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