News and Commentary

Cuomo Administration’s Investigation Blames Health Care Workers For Nursing Home COVID Deaths, Not Governor’s Order
Senior man in wheelchair wearing protective mask to prevent coronavirus transmission on porch - stock photo
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A special investigation, commissioned by New York Governor Andrew Cuomo’s administration, claims that health care workers, who cared for patients in adult care and nursing facilities, are to blame for hundreds of COVID-19 deaths and not the governor’s own policy forcing such facilities to accept coronavirus-positive patients.

“New York hospitals released more than 6,300 recovering coronavirus patients into nursing homes during the height of the pandemic under a controversial, now-scrapped policy,” The Associated Press reported late Monday, quoting an official report from the governor’s office.

But the office says it’s not to blame for the hundreds of deaths that resulted when patients who were still contagious were shifted into nursing and adult care facilities. Instead, it said that those deaths were the fault of “more than 20,000 infected home staffers, many of whom kept going to work unaware they had the virus in March and April.”

“Facts matter. And those are the facts,” a New York health commissioner told media Monday.

The Cuomo administration has been desperate to shift the blame for what The Associated Press says is more than 2,000 coronavirus deaths that occurred in nursing homes after the governor’s office ordered nearly 6,500 recovering COVID-19 patients released into such care facilities.

Cuomo’s office was clear, under the policy, that adult care and nursing facilities were required to take the COVID-19 patients and those that refused would face state consequences. Although the orders also specified that coronavirus-positive individuals were to be separated from the general population, many facilities — and, in particular, facilities that cared for low-income and minority populations — did not have the resources to fully sequester recovering COVID-19 patients from others.

The New York governor’s office eventually rescinded the policy, but not before hundreds of elderly and compromised New York residents had died from coronavirus. Nearly half of all New York pandemic deaths were in adult and nursing care facilities.

Since rescinding the policy, Andrew Cuomo has relied on a number of excuses to explain away the deaths, from blaming President Donald Trump to shifting focus to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (both of whom said the “directive” to send coronavirus patients to nursing homes was not an official requirement), and now, the state is directly targeting those who cared for many of the sickest patients in their dying days.

“The 33-page review released Monday by the state Health Department instead blamed COVID-19-positive staff and visitors who unknowingly infected the vulnerable population of nursing home patients, at least more than 6,000 of whom died in numbers that are not yet complete,” Buffalo News reported.

“The state report says the number of residents dying at nursing homes peaked on April 8 — around the same time as COVID-19 deaths statewide, but nearly a week before the peak of COVID-19 patients from hospitals — a sequence of events the report casts as ‘suggesting the policy was not the cause,'” The Associated Press added.

The Cuomo administration’s report also suggests that many nursing homes that accepted coronavirus-positive patients already had suspected cases of the virus.

Nursing home administrators took umbrage at the governor’s suggestion that health care workers caused the outbreaks and, by extension, deaths among their own patients.

“The policy tied the hands of nursing home leaders who were afraid of residents becoming infected from new patients, or who wanted to require symptomatic patients be tested for COVID-19 so nursing homes could place them in the right unit,” one administrator told the AP.

Health care workers took care of their patients at “great physical and emotional cost, in many cases without adequate personal protective equipment and while being denied needed paid sick time,” one union head added.

Cuomo later backed his administration’s findings, saying that nursing home deaths from the virus were inevitable.

“You had this political conspiracy that the deaths in nursing homes were preventable,” he said.

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