NYC nursing home resident who was denied a vaccine dies of COVID-19

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A 66-year-old patient at Dry Harbor Nursing Home died of COVID-19 last week after the Queens facility gave vaccines only to permanent residents — a misguided policy the state allegedly knew about in advance.

Vita Fontanetta, known as Tina, was admitted to the 360-bed facility to recover from leg inflammation on Jan. 11. When the nursing home doled out vaccines on Jan. 13, she was excluded, a family member told City Councilman Robert Holden.

On Jan. 18, the grandmother of two was sent back to the hospital due to anemia, and tested positive for COVID upon arrival, he said.

 She died at Wyckoff Heights Medical Center on Jan. 23.

“I feel like the nursing home was somehow responsible,” Fontanetta’s daughter-in-law told Holden (D-Queens) after a front-page report in The Post exposed the Dry Harbor selective-vaccine fiasco.

“It doesn’t appear that the state is adequately monitoring nursing home facilities, either for Covid prevention or vaccine rollout,” Holden said Saturday.

A COVID-19 outbreak at Dry Harbor — at least 44 residents and 11 staffers have tested positive since Dec. 22 — reveals flaws in the Cuomo administration’s oversight of safety and vaccination in New York nursing homes.

Holden joined Assemblyman Ron Kim (D-Queens), who lost an uncle in a nursing home due to COVID-19, in calling for a broad, independent investigation.

The councilman’s 96-year-old mother, Anne Holden, a rehab patient at Dry Harbor, also was excluded from a first round of vaccinations the nursing home gave permanent residents through a federal program administered by CVS on Dec. 23. 

Anne received a first dose three weeks later on Jan. 13, when other residents received a second dose. She came down with COVID on Jan. 20 and was hospitalized. She remains in stable condition.

Other patients and families are suffering from COVID after Dry Harbor failed to vaccinate them.

Carmen Martinez, a resident since April, was excluded from the vaccinations on Dec. 23, her son Antonio Collazo told The Post. 

Collazo said he received a recorded message from Dry Harbor on Christmas Eve saying it had vaccinated “those residents who requested it.” 

Collazo complained that he had requested the vaccine for his mom, who suffers from mild Alzheimer’s. The 92-year-old was then scheduled to get her first dose on Jan. 13.

But on Jan. 12, Martinez tested positive for COVID. She was hospitalized, and is now unconscious on a ventilator, clinging to life.

I may never get to see her alive again,” Collazo said of his mom, a retired federal employee, grandmother and great-grandmother.

A 73-year-old Queens man sent to Dry Harbor to recover from a broken hip also missed the pre-Christmas vaccine. He tested positive for Covid on Jan. 4, his sister told The Post.

Now he will have to wait 90 days to get vaccinated. He also must halt his cancer treatment until he recovers from COVID, she said.

“I don’t know what the nursing home was thinking. Why wouldn’t they protect the rehab patients?”

Last week, the sister received a recorded phone message from Dry Harbor administrator Mark Solomon assuring “they will be giving out the vaccines to everyone there and we shouldn’t worry about our family members,” she said. “A little too late for my brother and the councilman’s mother.” 

Her brother remains on Dry Harbor’s fourth floor, where all the COVID patients are housed.

Solomon did not return messages seeking comment.

Holden said he spoke to a state Health Department investigator last week who told him she knew about Dry Harbor’s plan to vaccinate only permanent residents first, but did nothing to correct or stop it.

Do you think it’s wise in a Covid outbreak to vaccinate only a portion of the patients, giving only some people a fighting chance?” Holden said he asked the inspector, Carmen Meliton.

“It’s not up to me to say whether it’s right or not,” he said Meliton replied.

Jonah Bruno, a spokesman for the state Health Department, contradicted the statements, saying nursing homes are not required to submit a vaccination plan to the state.

But Bruno reiterated that Dry Harbor did not follow state protocol, saying the state has no policy prioritizing residents or patients. 

“Vaccinations are being given to all nursing-home residents regardless of short term or long term stay,” he said.

Holden is frustrated. “It’s obvious that one hand doesn’t know what the other is doing at the state Department of Health,” he said.

Bruno  did not  answer when asked if Dry Harbor had informed the Health Department  about Fontanetta’s death. He also did not answer the question of how many unvaccinated or other residents who tested positive in Dry Harbor later died in hospitals.

 Since the pandemic began, the state has tallied the reported deaths of patients who died of COVID in nursing homes — not those who caught the bug in nursing homes and died in hospitals.

Last week, state Attorney General Letitia James issued a report blasting the Cuomo administration for  drastically underreporting nursing home deaths.

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