US coronavirus death toll passes 65,000 with devastating figures in care homes

The total number of US deaths from the coronavirus pandemic has exceeded 65,000 people as of Saturday morning, according to Johns Hopkins University. Available data now puts the estimated figure at 66,524 deaths with 1,148,853 confirmed cases of Covid-19. The grim milestone was reached as an increasing number of reports revealed an unfolding tragedy in senior care facilities across the country.

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In New York, a nursing home reported that 98 residents are believed to have died from the coronavirus.

Officials at the 705-bed Isabella Geriatric Centre in upper Manhattan confirmed that through Wednesday 46 residents who tested positive for Covid-19 had died as well as an additional 52 people "suspected" to have the virus. Some died at the nursing home and some died after being treated at hospitals.

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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. The staggering death toll has shocked public officials.

New York Representative Adriano Espaillat has accused nursing homes of not accurately reporting Covid-19 deaths to the Department of Health and called for an investigation.

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

The Isabella Centre in New York City, where as many as 98 residents have died from Covid-19 (AP/Frank Franklin II)

A statement from the home said that limited access to testing hampered their ability to determine who was infected beyond those that fell ill, meaning individuals who may have been asymptomatic were not isolated. It is uncertain whether this is the worst outbreak at a care facility to date as reporting policies vary at city and state level.

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Massachusetts saw a tragedy of a similar scale with 70 dying from Covid-19 at a home for ageing veterans. The death toll at the state-run Holyoke Soldiers' Home continues to climb, and an investigation is underway as to whether residents received proper care.

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In Florida, known for its large elderly and retired population, the state lists 475 out of its 1,386 deaths as having occurred in nursing homes or long-term care facilities -- approximately one in three.

Nursing homes with dense populations are particularly vulnerable to the effects of a Covid-19 infection. Once a case is confirmed it is difficult to stop the spread.

The Associated Press has been compiling a tally from state health departments and media reports, and found at least 13,762 deaths from outbreaks in nursing homes and long-term care facilities across the country. This is likely an undercount because only about half the states are currently reporting nursing home deaths and not all count those who died without ever being tested for Covid-19.

As many as 3,065 of the total nursing home deaths are in New York.

Associated Press contributed to this report

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