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As Andrew Cuomo does cringe-worthy comedy interviews with his CNN host brother, Chris Cuomo, the New York governor is coming under increasing fire for his deadly decision to order coronavirus-infected patients placed in nursing homes.
The Associated Press found that at least 4,300 COVID-19-infected patients were placed into nursing homes under the auspices of Gov. Cuomo’s March order, leading many to speculate that the decision dramatically increased the number of coronavirus-related deaths in the state.
Worse, critics are panning the decision as foolhardy, given that health experts in and out of government have known for months that the virus infects and kills older people at a much higher rate.
AP compiled its own tally to find out how many COVID-19 patients were discharged from hospitals to nursing homes under the March 25 directive after New York’s Health Department declined to release its internal survey conducted two weeks ago. It says it is still verifying data that was incomplete.
Whatever the full number, nursing home administrators, residents’ advocates and relatives say it has added up to a big and indefensible problem for facilities that even Gov. Andrew Cuomo — the main proponent of the policy — called “the optimum feeding ground for this virus.”
Earlier this month, a Republican congressional candidate in New York sent a letter to U.S. Attorney William Barr imploring him to conduct an investigation of Cuomo’s since-repealed decision.
4,900+ seniors have died from #COVID19 in NYS nursing homes following the state's order that facilities cannot refuse a patient based on infection status. Read my letter to AG Barr requesting a federal investigation into these deaths & the role played by the state's bad policy. pic.twitter.com/FbjUmU5W5X
— Chele Farley (@CheleFarley) May 9, 2020
In her letter to the AG, Chele Farley accused Cuomo of causing “hundreds of deaths” alone in the district where she’s running, while noting that at least 4,900 people have died of coronavirus in New York nursing homes following the governor’s order.
“It was the single dumbest decision anyone could make if they wanted to kill people,” Daniel Arbeeny said of the Cuomo’s order, in an interview with the AP.
Arbeeny said the order led him to remove his 88-year-old father from an eldercare facility in Brooklyn where more than 50 residents have died. He said that his father later succumbed to the virus while at home.
“This isn’t rocket science,” Arbeeny said. “We knew the most vulnerable — the elderly and compromised — are in nursing homes and rehab centers.”
A spokesperson with the New York Department of Health, when told of the AP’s tally, said the agency “can’t comment on data we haven’t had a chance to review, particularly while we’re still validating our own comprehensive survey of nursing homes admission and re-admission data in the middle of responding to this global pandemic.”
Cuomo rescinded the order May 10, but he continues to defend it, noting that it was initially done to ensure there would be enough hospital space in New York City and the state in general to treat an expected surge of coronavirus patients.
"We already lost 4800 people at least in nursing homes and now finding out that states are required to bring some COVID patients back into the nursing home," @CateMartel tells Newsmax TV.
— Newsmax (@newsmax) May 7, 2020
And while some hospitals were inundated for a time, thousands of extra beds in a field unit set up by the Army Corps of Engineers in NYC’s Javits Center, as well as aboard the USNS Comfort, a naval hospital ship, were barely used — even as COVID-19-infected patients were being directed to eldercare facilities.
Also, “Cuomo has said nursing home patients are among the most vulnerable, and his team was trying to help centers get supplies and staff,” The Wall Street Journal reported April 23.
In response to a question from a reporter last week, Cuomo said “nobody” should be prosecuted for his decision.
According to the AP, more than 5,800 people have died in New York nursing homes from COVID-19.
In defending his order, Cuomo said that “any nursing home could just say, ‘I can’t handle a COVID person in my facility,’” the newswire service reported.
But that contradicts the actual order, which says “no resident shall be denied re-admission or admission to the (nursing home) solely based” on being infected with coronavirus.
“During this global health emergency, all NHs [nursing homes] must comply with the expedited receipt of residents returning from hospitals,” the order said.
Also, Cuomo himself said during an early press conference that nursing homes didn’t have any choice, that they had to take coronavirus patients and if they couldn’t handle them because they didn’t have the right equipment, then that was on the eldercare facility, not the governor’s office.
“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.”
Nursing homes “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,” he added.
Cuomo’s order “put staff and residents at great risk,” Stuart Almer, CEO of the 460-bed care facility Gurwin Jewish, told the AP. “We can’t draw a straight line from bringing in someone positive to someone catching the disease, but we’re talking about elderly, fragile and vulnerable residents.”
The New York governor has also blamed the Trump administration, saying he was merely following federal guidelines.
However, the AP noted:
…[F]ew states went as far as New York and neighboring New Jersey, which has the second-most care home deaths, in discharging hospitalized coronavirus patients to nursing homes. California followed suit but loosened its requirement following intense criticism.
And, of course, other states took a different approach. Louisiana banned hospitals from sending coronavirus patients to nursing homes for 30 days. And in Florida, GOP Gov. Ron DeSantis specifically moved early on to keep coronavirus patients from being placed in eldercare facilities.
Thank you @TuckerCarlson and Dr. Marc Siegel for sharing how my administration's actions to protect our seniors and most vulnerable in long-term care facilities early on during the #COVID19 pandemic was critical to flattening the curve in Florida. pic.twitter.com/jVsjqMugLW
— Ron DeSantis (@GovRonDeSantis) May 9, 2020
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