Nearly 16,000 residents of nursing homes and adult-care facilities have been killed by COVID-19, yet one Bronx doctor said the threat is not over as the Delta variant continues to surge accounting for 90% of the COVID-19 cases in NYC.
Dr. Walid Michelen, senior vice president of Clinical Planning & Innovation and Chief Medical Officer at ArchCare, a continuing care community, told the Bronx Times that seniors, people with pre-existing conditions and those who have not been vaccinated are the ones most in danger of contracting the Delta variant.
Michelen said right now ArchCare’s two nursing homes in the Bronx, Providence Rest, 3304 Waterbury Ave. and St. Vincent de Paul Nursing Home, located at 900 Intervale Ave., are doing OK and have not had a COVID-19 patient in the last 90 days. In fact, 93% and 88% of the residents at Vincent and Providence, respectively, are vaccinated.
“We’re putting an effort in to educate our residents,” he said.
In July, ArchCare announced that any new employee must be vaccinated. Michelen said in the spring everyone began to finally feel a burden lifted off their shoulders as people were getting vaccinated. But, when the Delta variant arrived, now people are nervous again.
Since the pandemic began the two nursing homes in the Bronx lost 33 residents to COVID, most of which died in March and April of 2020 — when nursing homes statewide took in COVID-19 patients from hospitals and lacked proper PPE.
The doctor, who has been in the medical field for 40-plus years and worked during the AIDS epidemic, has never seen anything like the coronavirus, he said. “It’s been painful to watch people get sick and not have a way to help them,” he said. “It was the worst experience. I really don’t want to live through that again.”
Michelen said the past year and a half has been extremely challenging for his staff as well. Many got sick, worked long days and were emotionally worn down. administrators at ArchCare held daily meetings to check the pulse off the staff, sent care packages home and did the best they could to make sure the employees were OK.
“We were 24/7 monitoring everything that was going on,” Michelen said. “They [staff] stepped up and it was incredible.”
He said if anyone is taking the Delta variant lightly, they are mistaken. According to the doctor, it is twice as infectious the initial strain of the coronavirus and more deadly, which is why places like Florida and Texas have their intensive care units filled.
“We’re not assuming this will go away,” he said. “The main weapon we have against it is the vaccine. As a doctor, I find it totally incredible that people refuse to get vaccinated.”
With only half of the Bronx vaccinated, Michelen is worried about residents of Bronx county — the least healthiest county in New York State — who have already been ravaged by the coronavirus. He added that there are too many misconceptions about the vaccine that aren’t backed by science.
“In all fairness to the people in the Bronx, it’s not that they don’t believe in the vaccine, it’s there aren’t enough available sites in the Bronx for vaccination,” he said.
Reach Jason Cohen at email@example.com or (718) 260-4598. For more coverage, follow us on Twitter @bronxtimes and Facebook @bronxtimes.