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On Monday, the upcoming flu season led the New York State Health Department to announce an emergency rule that requires increased testing to distinguish whether individuals are infected or die from the coronavirus or influenza. 

 

Set to be implemented immediately, this directive requires coroners, funeral directors, hospitals, and nursing homes to test for both illnesses to determine the cause of illness or death. Nursing homes are currently required to test all staffers for COVID-19 weekly, a rule which some operators want relaxed.

 

In a statement released late Monday, Health Commissioner Dr. Howard Zucker said, “While the human toll this virus has taken on New Yorkers is immeasurable, these regulations will ensure we have the most accurate death data possible as we continue to manage COVID-19 while preparing for flu season. Good quality health data helps inform good quality public health decisions, and this information will strengthen our contact tracing efforts and slow the spread of this virus.”

 

These guidelines will expect compulsory testing of every hospital patient or nursing home resident who has been exposed or has symptoms consistent with either disease.

In addition, coroners, medical examiners, and funeral directors are required to perform COVID-19 and influenza tests when someone dies “unattended” by medical or nursing personnel — such as at home.

 

Imperative for the New York State, which has been hard hit by the pandemic — suffering more deaths from COVID-19 than any other state, including more populous California, Texas, and Florida, these guidelines are a precautionary measure towards what might come ahead. 

 

There have been discrepancies regarding the death toll in New York, with the John Hopkins University’s Coronavirus Resource Center recording 32,951 deaths from COVID-19, while the state Health Department reported 25,328 deaths. 

 

There’s been 6,639 confirmed or presumed deaths of nursing home and adult care facility residents linked to the coronavirus. That figure does not include potentially thousands of nursing home residents who were transported to a hospital for treatment and then died. A total of 434,756 New Yorkers have tested positive for COVID-19, and the coronavirus infection rate has fortunately been under one percent for 24 consecutive days.

Source: USAToday.com

State health officials defended the new testing guidelines, saying that if the rule wasn’t imposed, the existing situation would allow deaths to be reported as `presumed’ deaths of COVID-19.

“A lack of regulation would translate to a lack of accuracy in case statistics and delays or inadequate contact tracing, which would allow COVID-19 to spread indefinitely. Second, the regulations would encourage hospitals, nursing homes, and hospices to test patients early for both COVID-19 and influenza, which will increase the safety of patients and residents,” officials said in a statement accompanying the rule.

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Rhea Sovani

Author Rhea Sovani

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