Employees who work in New York State-run group homes for the developmentally disabled claim they are being forced to work at sites where residents have COVID-19, according to whistleblowers who spoke to the Washington Examiner.
Although the spread of COVID-19 in group homes is not as severe as the impact of the disease in nursing homes, 552 people who reside in group homes have died from the disease.
The Washington Examiner additionally reported that 6,382 residents and workers were infected with the virus, citing data from the New York State Office for People With Developmental Disabilities.
Approximately 15,000 nursing home residents lost their lives to COVID-19, a number that has been the subject of allegations that the administration of state Gov. Andrew Cuomo sought to cover up the full toll of deaths — linked to a March 2020 memo ordering nursing homes to accept coronavirus-positive patients.
A similar April 10 memo from the state said group homes cannot bar individuals with COVID-19.
Now employees of the state are reportedly being forced to work with COVID-positive patients.
“They used to call us four hours beforehand, and we figured out where they were going to send us, so we’d call in sick,” according to “one employee who did not want to be identified out of fear of reprisal” who reportedly spoke to the Examiner.
“But now, they know we do this and wait until we show up to work, and then they tell you, ‘You’re going to a COVID house.’ This is not what I signed up for, absolutely not. I have a baby at home and need to protect my family,” the whistleblower continued, according to the outlet.
Republican state Sen. Anthony Palumbo, the ranking Republican on the Ethics and Internal Governance Committee, said the allegations that employees are being tricked into going to COVID-positive homes should be the subject of hearings.
“I’m absolutely going to address this right away and intend on calling the department to answer,” he said.
“Those employees are making practically minimum wage. A lot of them make very little money, and to put them in this situation is outrageous.”
State spokeswoman Jennifer O’Sullivan, said infected residents are separated from healthy individuals by being either sent to a temporary site away from a group home or hospitalized.
The Examiner reported employees told the outlet that the state’s claim was not true.
“I got sent out to a house, and they didn’t tell me it was COVID, and when I got there, I saw a big sign on the door that said, ‘We’re COVID positive.’ I was like, ‘Are you kidding me?’” a second unidentified employee reportedly told the outlet.
“I complained, and then every shift, they sent me to all these COVID houses. The more you complain, the more they send you there. Then, they will put you on administrative leave.”
According to the Examiner, the employee said she once was locked down in a house for two weeks as infected residents mingled with everyone else since restrooms were shared and there was no private dining area.
Care worker Jeff Monsour said that infected residents were being mixed with healthy residents, as the state did not want to utilize its network of empty homes to separate the groups.
“In one case, an individual shared a room in a medically frail facility with another individual — one had COVID, and the other did not. The only thing separating them was a cloth privacy screen,” Monsour told the Examiner.
“I have been complaining about this COVID situation for a year, along with some other things. I believe the dysfunction goes all the way to the top, to Cuomo.”
State Sen. Mike Martucci, the top-ranking Republican on the Senate Disabilities Committee, has called upon the state to answer questions about its COVID-19 policies.
“Transparency has been a major failing of this administration at all levels. I’m hopeful that they have finally learned their lesson and will provide the information we are requesting and provide it quickly,” Martucci said.
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