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Despite the heightened number of coronavirus deaths in nursing homes, New York maintained a policy of readmitting residents who tested positive for the illness.
Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo claimed he did not even know about the policy in the state where nearly 3,500 people who have died from COVID-19 were nursing home residents.
Cuomo turned to New York’s health commissioner for answers when he was asked at a press briefing earlier this week about the directive that requires nursing homes in the state to readmit residents even if they had the highly-contagious virus, the New York Post reported.
“That’s a good question, I don’t know,” the governor said.
“The necessary precautions will be taken to protect the other residents there,” Health Commissioner Howard Zucker said at the daily press briefing, referring to the policy which says that “if you are positive, you should be admitted back to a nursing home.”
Assemblyman Ron Kim begged to differ with Zucker’s assertion that residents would be protected.
“It’s either he’s lying or they have absolutely no idea what’s going on on the ground,” the Queens Democrat said. “The staff, the families, everyone is telling me there’s complete a lack of support and they don’t have the necessary PPE [personal protective equipment] to be safe.”
Official New York policy encouraged infectious COVID-19 patients to be sent back to nursing homes
Reminder: about half of COVID-19 deaths have been nursing home patients
— Bachman (@ElonBachman) April 22, 2020
But during his daily briefing in Albany on Wednesday, Cuomo said it wasn’t his job to provide the PPE to the nursing homes.
“We have been helping them with more PPE but, again, it’s not our job,” Cuomo said. “You’ll be out of business if you’re not providing your staff with the right equipment. You’re out of business. That we can do.”
The facilities, Cuomo contended, “have to do the job they’re getting paid to do, and if they’re not doing the job they’re getting paid to do, and they’re violating state regulations, then that’s a different issue — then they should lose their license.”
Officials believe the reported number of COVID-19 deaths of nursing home residents in the state may be an undercount, as New York faces over 19,000 fatalities — with the majority in New York City.
“The buck stops with him. But he’s saying the buck doesn’t stop with him,” Assemblyman Kim said of Cuomo. “We gave him the authority to save lives and he’s not.”
“Instead of accountability for errors, so we can learn and move forward, he instead says protecting the people who he knows are most vulnerable — who are losing their lives in unsafe conditions — is not his job,” Public Advocate Jumaane Williams said, according to the New York Post.
Last month, Cuomo spoke of protecting the vulnerable in the state’s population as he issued a stay-at-home order, saying, “my mother is not expendable and your mother is not expendable and our brothers and sisters are not expendable.”
But the death of one 88-year-old woman prompted her daughter to write an emotional letter calling out Cuomo for the policy.
“I am wondering who will hold Gov. Cuomo accountable for the deaths of so many older people due to his reckless decision to place covid19 patients in nursing and rehabilitation homes,” the letter penned by Arlene Mullin stated.“I am writing as a daughter who lost her beautiful 88-year-old mother who was receiving physical therapy at one such facility.”
Nearly 25 percent of all the coronavirus deaths in New York were residents of nursing homes or adult-care facilities, with more than 2,000 of those being centered in the five boroughs of New York City.
In contrast, Florida’s large elderly population was a priority for Gov. Ron DeSantis who told Fox News’ Sean Hannity that comprehensive measures early on, targeting the most at-risk people in the state, has led to general success in flattening the curve. President Trump gave a shout out on Twitter earlier this week to the success at The Villages which, with more than 128,000 residents, is one of the largest retirement communities in the country.
Cuomo dismissed demands by protesters to reopen the state’s economy, as he has ordered keeping non-essential business shuttered until mid-May while telling a reporter Wednesday that economic hardships are not “worse than death.”
New York, however, is not the only state with an elevated number of nursing home deaths as neighboring New Jersey has also seen a large percentage of its COVID-19 fatalities come from the facilities.
43% of NJ deaths involve nursing homes. In my county, 20% of all cases and a whopping 54% of all deaths are from these homes. In my small town we have 17 dead in one of these facilities. pic.twitter.com/mr6QsLeL3M
— michael (@Realronmexico99) April 22, 2020
More than 70 percent of the 160 deaths in Minnesota are connected to long-term care facilities.
In Minnesota, 113/160 (=71%) deaths were in nursing homes.https://t.co/7LM24BfZLt
In my county, (not in Minnesota), 83% were.
— Ann (@datmaven) April 22, 2020
Italy’s catastrophic death rates from the pandemic took a tragic toll on the elderly. The lack of hospital beds in northern Italy at the beginning of March led government officials to sentence “hundreds of elderly people hosted in nursing homes to death,” according to TRT World.
“The regional resolution offering 150 euros ($163) to nursing homes for accepting Covid-19 patients to ease the burden on hospitals, contributed to the uncontrolled spread of the virus among health workers and elderly guests, turning these institutions into virus hotbeds,” the outlet reported. “Hosting Covid-19 patients in nursing homes was like lighting a match in a haystack.”