HHS Secretary Azar Visits WNY

HHS Secretary Alex Azar

BUFFALO, N.Y. (WBEN) - Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar on Thursday pushed for governors across the country to ensure the safety of nursing home residents, saying more than 40 percent of the coronavirus deaths in the United States are individuals from a nursing home. 

“Thats just unacceptable,” Azar said of the statistics he cited in a visit at Roswell Park. “We have got to reinforce our nursing homes. We’ve got to protect those in our nursing homes...That means that our state’s governors have got to make this a top priority.”

There are more than 3,000 confirmed nursing home deaths in nursing home deaths and a couple thousand presumed coronavirus deaths. Governor Andrew Cuomo previously blamed CDC guidelines for why he decided to allow coronavirus-positive residents to return to their nursing home, which may have exacerbated the spread of the virus. 

“There is no CDC guideline saying you should be taking positive covid patients and putting them back into the community in nursing homes,” Azar said. “The CDC guidelines simply say nursing homes should have an appropriate infection control to be able to deal with a positive should they have a positive case.”

He said the federal government has not looked into a formal investigation into New York’s handling of nursing homes during the pandemic. 

Azar visited Buffalo to tour Roswell Park Comprehensive Cancer Center and Buffalo General and to highlight a safe reopening across the country. 

He helped unveil new diagnostic testing at Roswell Park which allows for person to find the results of their test within an hour of a sample collection. 

Azar said he was concerned, though, that there was a drop in services like electives for several months. It forced many people to postpone things like cancer screenings and surgeries that help with quality of life. 

More than $15 million has been given to Buffalo General by the federal government to help combat coronavirus. 

New York on Wednesday allowed all hospitals in Erie County to resume elective surgeries. Neighboring counties had electives restored in May.