A nursing home in New York has reported a “horrifying” death toll of 98 people from the coronavirus as residential facilities continued to emerge as a deadly source of outbreaks across the world.
The death toll at the Isabella Geriatric Center in Manhattan is one of the worst such outbreaks in the United States and caused a shock even in hard-hit New York after an official state tally of nursing home deaths listed only 13 at the home as of Friday.
But officials at the 705-bed centre later confirmed that up to 46 residents who tested positive for Covid-19 had died, as well as an additional 52 people suspected to have the virus, Associated Press reported. Some died at the nursing home and some died after being treated at hospitals.
“It’s absolutely horrifying,” mayor Bill de Blasio said. “It’s just impossible to imagine so many people lost in one place.”
The number of bodies became so overwhelming the home ordered a refrigerator truck to store them because funeral homes have been taking days to pick up the deceased.
“Isabella, like all other nursing homes in New York City, initially had limited access to widespread and consistent in-house testing to quickly diagnose our residents and staff,” Audrey Waters, a spokeswoman for the nursing home, wrote in an email.
“This hampered our ability to identify those who were infected and asymptomatic, despite our efforts to swiftly separate anyone who presented symptoms.”
Isabella also encountered staffing shortages, prompting it to hire from outside agencies and early challenges securing personal protective equipment for employees. Waters said the home finally is getting more access to testing now.
A survey last month of nursing homes in New York state found that 19 had reported 20 or more deaths linked to the pandemic, raising the prospect of hundreds of unattributed Covid-19 deaths in a state where almost 24,000 people have died from the disease.
The state’s health department said it has received outbreak reports from 239 nursing homes, including at least six facilities with death tolls of 40 patients or more.
“The one thing we now know about the nursing homes is the status quo cannot continue to say the least,” de Blasio said. “Something very different has to happen.”
The UK’s death toll has increased sharply this week after officials began counting fatalities from the country’s nursing homes alongside deaths in hospitals.
Britain now has the third highest number of deaths in the world, 27,510 according to the Johns Hopkins University tracker, behind only the US and Italy.
In Australia, where the virus has been brought under control more quickly, deaths continued to mount at a care home in western Sydney.
Thirteen people have died at Newmarch House in Penrith out of national total of only 93, and it is threatening to overtake the Ruby Princess cruise ship as the single biggest source of deaths in the country. On Saturday, two more staff members were confirmed to have the virus.
On Wednesday it emerged that nearly 70 veterans had died from the virus in a nursing home in Massachusetts.
Worldwide there are now 3.4 million cases of coronavirus and more than 238,000 deaths but many countries are continuing to relax their lockdown restrictions.
Singapore’s health minister said on Saturday that it will start easing some curbs after a second wave of the coronavirus concentrated in the state’s crowded migrant worler dormitories appeared to subside.
Selected activities such as home-based businesses, laundry services and barbers will be allowed to operate from 12 May. Some students will be allowed to go back to schools in small groups from 19 May.
In the US, California’s governor, Gavin Newsom, promised to make “meaningful” changes to stay-at-home orders in the coming days as thousands of protesters gathered across the state in defiance of the lockdown.
Demonstrations took place in the state capital, Sacramento, and there was also a large protest at Huntingdon Beach in Los Angeles where anger has flared about Newsom’s order to close beaches.
Donald Trump has told Michigan’s governor, Gretchen Whitmer, that she should “make a deal” with anti-lockdown protesters after they swarmed the state capitol this week. Whitmer rejected the idea of making a deal during a public health emergency, but said some outdoor work will be allowed to resume next week.