Former nursing home resident says he’s afraid for friends

PHILADELPHIA (KYW Newsradio) — More than a third of the city’s deaths from COVID-19 have taken place in long-term care facilities. One Philadelphia man talks about moving out of a nursing home a month ago and now seeing his friends pass away. 

“My friends are going crazy in there,” said Gerald Banks. “Two of my friends died. Russ died the other day and Gail died on the 31st.”

At 74, Banks is counting his blessings. For more than a year, he lived at the York Nursing and Rehab Center on Old York Road in North Philadelphia. A pancreatic cancer survivor, Banks lives with COPD and diabetes. 

His daughter moved him out of the York facility on Feb. 29, just a few weeks before COVID-19 infections began appearing inside the city’s nursing facilities.

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When asked if he feels lucky to have moved out, Banks responded, “Yeah, you can say that.” 

He and his family attribute it to “divine intervention.” 

Banks’ breath is labored and he has a tough time getting around without assistance, yet he’s thriving in his own apartment in a 55-year-old and up building. But he is not untouched by what is happening at the nursing center, and speaks to his friend Brady each day.

“He’s scared,” said Banks. “They leaving here like hot cakes. Some want to move out, but the question is where do they go.”

The city of Philadelphia reported 65 deaths due to COVID-19, with 26 being in long-term care facilities. 

City officials declined to identify which facilities the deaths occurred in or how many of the 26 deaths took place at York.

“These elderly people are in there, they really fighting for their lives,” said daughter Nicole Banks.

She says she feels safer with her father in his own apartment, where he can socially distance himself. She visits often, wearing a mask to keep him safe.

“If he was in the nursing home it would probably be real right about now,” she said. “We are lucky. This was God.”

Banks says he plans to be around for quite some time, and he has no doubt he’ll make it through the pandemic.

“I’ma live to be 102-years-old,” he said, chuckling.

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