NYC nursing home reports 98 deaths linked to coronavirus, orders refrigerator truck for bodies

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A New York City nursing home reported 98 resident deaths Friday believed to be linked to the coronavirus, a figure so staggering the facility ordered a refrigerator truck to store the bodies until backed-up funeral homes could pick them up.

The figure shocked public officials, even as New York State deals with multiple nursing home deaths in recent weeks and COVID-19 infections.

"It’s absolutely horrifying,” Mayor Bill de Blasio said. “It’s inestimable loss, and it’s just impossible to imagine so many people lost in one place.”

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The Isabella Geriatric Center says nearly 100 of its residents have died from confirmed or suspected cases the novel coronavirus. It is among the hardest hit nursing homes in the state, with 46 confirmed fatalities and an additional 52 deaths of people suspected to have the virus. (AP Photo/Frank Franklin II)

The Isabella Geriatric Center says nearly 100 of its residents have died from confirmed or suspected cases the novel coronavirus. It is among the hardest hit nursing homes in the state, with 46 confirmed fatalities and an additional 52 deaths of people suspected to have the virus. (AP Photo/Frank Franklin II)

The 705-bed Isabella Geriatric Center in Manhattan faced challenges in combating the pandemic amid staff shortages and limited testing, along with issues securing personal protective equipment (PPE).

“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,” facility spokeswoman Audrey Waters told the Associated Press. “This hampered our ability to identify those who were infected and asymptomatic, despite our efforts to swiftly separate anyone who presented symptoms.”

She said the facility was just starting to get more access to tests. It was difficult to determine whether Friday's reported deaths are the highest for a nursing home in the United States because of the way facilities chose to report them.

An official state tally of nursing home deaths listed only 13 at the home as of Friday.

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Across New York State, more than 308,300 people have tested positive for the coronavirus, including 18,610 deaths, according to the state Department of Public Health.

The coronavirus has hit nursing homes particularly hard. A 360-bed facility in an upscale section of Brooklyn reported 55 deaths last week. In Washington state, 43 residents at a long-term care facility died and the home was fined $611,000 after a federal investigation found lapses in care and reporting.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.