Report: Cuomo’s group home mandate may have put disabled adults in harm’s way as well

New York’s Governor Andrew Cuomo finds himself embroiled in yet another scandal involving a directive he issued a year ago that mandated COVID-positive patients be accepted back into group homes where disabled adults reside.

That policy is still in effect and was issued on April 10 according to Liz Wolfe at Reason. She wrote an article entitled: “Cuomo’s Other Victims” that details how Cuomo “similarly instructed residential homes for adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities to accept asymptomatic COVID-19 patients back into congregate living facilities, in some cases without sufficient testing and isolation protocols in place.”

New York Senate Republicans sent a letter to the Office of People with Developmental Disabilities (OPWDD) that pointed out the order was “almost identical” to the nursing home mandate. It noted the “failure to protect New Yorkers with intellectual and developmental disabilities living in group homes during the pandemic.” The senators demanded they be given updated information on COVID-related infections and death rates related to these residential facilities.

“I am deeply concerned that the April 10th order from OPWDD needlessly put some of our most vulnerable citizens in harm’s way,” GOP State Sen. Mike Martucci stated. “Close on the heels of the deadly nursing home order from the Department of Health (DOH), this order appears both dangerous and tone-deaf,” Martucci declared. “Transparency has been a major failing of this administration at all levels.”

Democratic State Assemblyman Tom Abinanti sent a letter to Health Department Commissioner Howard Zucker requesting information concerning the OPWDD directive. “Why is this directive still in effect and why has it not been modified?” he asked, according to the New York Post.

Abinanti has reportedly not received a response. He said that “ignoring us is typical of the Cuomo administration and makes everyone suspicious that they’re covering something up.”

“It’s discrimination against people will disabilities and exhibiting a total lack of care of those with disabilities,” he told the Post this week.

OPWDD released a statement declaring that “residents of OPWDD group homes who were sent to the hospital for COVID-19 treatment were returned to their homes after being deemed safe to return by the hospital physician, in consultation with the residential provider.” They also reported 6,952 COVID cases and 553 deaths. More than 34,552 residing in these facilities have been infected.

Relatives of the disabled residents in these homes have complained that services have been canceled and that other routines have been disrupted due to the pandemic, according to the report in Reason:

Many take part in some form of daytime programming, which has been made unavailable. Some people with intellectual and developmental disabilities struggle with mask wearing, failing to understand why it even needs to happen in the first place. Families across the state were barred from seeing their loved ones in person for many months; local news accounts are replete with stories of intellectually disabled adults not understanding why in-person visits with parents, siblings, and friends had ceased. For many families, Zoom and FaceTime made for an insufficient stand-in, as some people with disabilities struggled to make sense of the technology and couldn’t reap the same benefits of feeling connected to their loved ones through a screen.

 

Family members of residents who contracted the coronavirus and/or died from it are speaking out now about their loss and frustration. They described how “[t]hey still had to share bathrooms and could not avoid infecting others.” They are accusing Cuomo of “abandon[ing] the most vulnerable leaving not-for-profit agencies fending for themselves.”

This burgeoning scandal follows the nursing home horror that Cuomo created when he allegedly caused the deaths of many elderly residents after sending COVID-positive individuals back into those homes. It’s also hot on the heels of his sexual harassment allegations which are growing by the day. Cuomo is under two investigations currently and this could be the third one. The majority of Democrats in his state and many in general are calling for his resignation and impeachment. The governor is still refusing to step down.

“As Cuomo deals with the messy fallout” from this growing list of scandals, Wolfe wrote, “New Yorkers should remember that his misdeeds have become almost too numerous to count and that many people’s lives have been affected—or ended—as a result of his early-pandemic directives, some of which remain in place today.”

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