The COVID-19-related deaths of nine nuns at a Latham convent have made international headlines.
On December 11th, Newschannel13 reported 22 sisters at Saint Joseph’s Provincial House tested positive for coronavirus. By December 29, the Times Union reported that nine nuns had died.
In that story, an Albany County spokesperson indicated the county wasn’t aware of all of the deaths, quoting here -- "Four of the deaths associated with the congregation had been previously reported earlier this month by the hospitals. The other five were not reported to the Albany County Department of Health by the facility."
During a New Year's Eve press briefing, Albany County Executive Dan McCoy spoke about the status of members of religious orders.
"They have apartments that they all live together. They're not categorized under a nursing home. They're not categorized as assisted living. It's a convent for nuns and they got places like that for priests and other people. It also highlighted a thing this gentleman friend of mine brought up to me about some issues they were having with congregate settings like this for seniors, not just here in Albany county throughout the state. There's an issue in Rensselaer County with some senior complexes that have people over the age of 65. Living together with within 20 apartments, and they might be section eight, they might just all just be living there. But it's an issue we need to address not just for a health standpoint, but for vaccines going forward. And it's something that when the State Senate was in on Monday, and they did the rent control, great. These are things that we've learned over the course of the last nine and a half months that we need to address."
McCoy said he would bring the matter before state officials. McCoy added he understands that congregate residences such as convents and friaries are not obligated to report to county or state health departments.
"We need to address these settings that have that 'loophole in the law' where they don't have to report to the County Health Department, they don't really have to report to the State Health Department, but they are in conjunct setting, and we have to make sure that we don't have these issues going forward."
140 of the Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet reside at the Latham convent, according to its website. 13 nuns have died there since late November. A cemetery for sisters is located on the grounds.
Mary DeTurris Poust is Director of Communications for the Roman Catholic Diocese of Albany.
"All of us at the Diocese of Albany are, have been, praying for the Sisters of St. Joseph throughout this challenging time. And we know how difficult this is because we're seeing it across the country. We're seeing it around the world, that, on top of the challenges of COVID itself and the loss of these beloved sisters, is the fact that we can't celebrate their lives with funerals, with memorials and wakes, and the normal celebrations that we would have, that would let us bring closure, and to grieve together. And so we really feel for the Sisters of St. Joseph, we wish that we could be more present to them at this time, but because of COVID restrictions, that's not even possible. So we are praying for them. We want them to know we're praying for them and I know the community at large is praying for them as well.”
Calls to the convent, whose plight made the New York Times over the weekend, were not returned in time for broadcast.