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De Blasio Vows Medical Help for ‘Isolation Hotels’ After Deaths

A Jamaica, Queens shelter hotel where people were being isolated during the coronavirus outbreak.
A Jamaica hotel where people were being isolated during the coronavirus outbreak, April 2, 2020.
Photo: Ben Fractenberg/THE CITY

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The city will boost its medical monitoring of homeless New Yorkers and COVID-19 patients sent to isolation hotels, Mayor Bill de Blasio said Thursday following a spate of deaths at the facilities.

Three men placed by the city Office of Emergency Management in a Times Square hotel — two of whom were COVID-19 positive — died last weekend. A homeless shelter resident with the virus placed by the city Department of Homeless Services in a different hotel also died.

Asked about the Times Square deaths at his daily news conference, de Blasio said the city plans to make sure medical staff are monitoring everybody the city puts in isolation hotels as part of the effort to thwart the spread of the virus.

“What we’re doing is adding clinical staffing in these hotel facilities,” he said. “We’re going to be in an abundance of caution having clinical personnel monitoring people regularly in these sites to make sure that folks are safe, even if they appeared to be fully and appropriately discharged.”

Laura Feyer, a spokesperson for the mayor, later clarified, “We are evaluating medical discharge protocols for all patients, regardless of which hotel they go to.”

THE CITY revealed Tuesday that four shelter residents who’d tested positive for the virus recently died either in a hotel or in shelters after the city Department of Homeless Services deemed them as having “mild illness.”

The city has been placing people in hundreds of hotel rooms — including homeless shelter residents infected with the virus and elderly shelter residents who haven’t been tested, but are displaying symptoms. City officials also find hotel rooms for patients discharged from hospitals who have nowhere to go.

DHS has also placed in hotels dozens of COVID-19 positive patients discharged from public hospitals who had no known address or were living doubled-up in apartments. And the Office of Emergency Management finds hotel rooms for patients discharged from hospitals but still require isolation.

‘Wellness Checks’ Questioned

DHS officials say they’ve brought in medical staff at all the hotels where they place shelter residents — and require that the workers be on site 24/7 and perform multiple “wellness checks” on residents daily.

But some hotel residents and shelter workers have told THE CITY that the checks are usually done over the phone, and that clinical staffers are not always on site.

Isaac McGinn, a DHS spokesperson, insisted Thursday that all of the agency’s five hotels are staffed with nurses all the time, and that phone wellness checks “are not an indication that nurses are not on site.”

“In all cases, we are working hard to ensure essential services and supports, such as clinical staffing at isolation sites, continue no matter what, with provider partners implementing plans that ensure continuity of staffing and services, even in these unprecedented emergency times,” he added.

The Office of Emergency Management is also placing into hotels COVID-19-positive people discharged by hospitals who are no longer experiencing symptoms but are unable to go home for fear of infecting others.

Omar Bourne, an OEM spokesperson, said the individuals the agency sent to hotels “have been determined by hospitals who are discharging them to not need medical care or hospitalization,” and that they get two wellness checks, via phone, each day.

However, after the men died in the Times Square hotel, as first reported by the New York Post, OEM early this week “partnered” with the city’s public Health & Hospitals Corporation to perform in-person checks. OEM also assigned 24/7 emergency medical technicians to respond to “urgent medical issues and transport guests as necessary.”

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