Death of five Sisters of St. Joseph leads McCoy to call for closing ‘loophole in the law’

— Photo from the website of the Albany Province of the Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet

Albany County learned this week that five women who lived at the Albany Province of the Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet, in Latham, had died of COVID-19. 

ALBANY COUNTY — Albany County Executive Daniel McCoy says he wants to close a “loophole in the law” since discovering that congregate residences like convents don’t have to report to county or state health departments.

McCoy said at his Thursday morning press conference that he would call on local State Assembly members John McDonald, a Democrat who represents Cohoes and Rensselaer, and parts of Albany and Troy, and Patricia Fahy, a Democrat who represents a large part of Albany County, to draft legislation.

On Wednesday, McCoy had announced the death of five women from COVID-19 who lived in a convent run by the Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet, which is located at 385 Watervliet Shaker Road in Latham.

The county’s health department hadn’t known about the deaths when they occurred. McCoy noted that, earlier during the pandemic, nursing homes, which are legally required to report deaths only to the state’s health department, had not reported COVID-19 deaths to the county’s health department. The county subsequently worked out a system to get notification.

However, the convent is not a nursing home. About 140 sisters live in the Provincial House, which was built in the 1960s, according to its website.

The center “provides space for the administrative offices of the congregation; the Carondelet Music Center; the Carondelet Hospitality Center; the province archives; the residence for retired sisters, sisters who need long-term health care, and sisters whose ministries are located both inside and outside the complex,” it says.

The grounds also have a cemetery for the Sisters of St. Joseph.

Since learning of the deaths, McCoy said he had talked to the sisters at the convent at length. He noted that his aunt is a Little Sister of the Poor.

Just as convents are not categorized as nursing homes, McCoy said, other congregate settings for elderly residents, such as apartment complexes, aren’t either.

“It’s an issue we need to address … for vaccines going forward,” he said.

“This is a category we need to identify,” said McCoy since such facilities don’t have to report to the state or county health departments.

“We have 6,500 residents over the age of 65 in Albany County,” McCoy concluded. “We need to identify these places …. so we’re there to protect everyone going forward.”

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