News and Commentary

Gov. Cuomo Ripped After Internal Report Seeks To Shift Blame (Again) For Nursing Home Deaths
NEW YORK, NEW YORK - MAY 21: New York Governor Andrew Cuomo arrives with a face mask at a news conference on May 21, 2020 in New York City. While the governor continued to say that New York City is seeing a steady decline in coronavirus cases, he also mentioned that the number of countries reporting a mysterious illness in children believed to be connected to COVID-19 has nearly doubled in just one week. (Photo by
Spencer Platt/Getty Images

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo is once again trying to shift blame for thousands of deaths in state nursing homes, a move that is drawing fierce criticism from the scientific community.

On March 25, 2020, the Democratic governor enacted a statewide directive that forced nursing homes to take recovering COVID-19 patients, regardless of whether they remained contagious. “No resident shall be denied readmission or admission to the NH [nursing home] solely based on a confirmed or suspected diagnosis of COVID-19. NHs are prohibited from requiring a hospitalized resident who is determined medically stable to be tested for COVID-19 prior to admission or readmission,” read Cuomo’s order.

Before the order was rescinded on May 10, thousands of infected patients were sent into nursing homes.

“More than 4,500 recovering coronavirus patients were sent to New York’s already vulnerable nursing homes under a controversial state directive that was ultimately scrapped amid criticisms it was accelerating the nation’s deadliest outbreaks, according to a count by The Associated Press,” the AP wrote on May 22.

The number was even higher according to a later account by The Associated Press, which reported on Tuesday that “the state’s own count [shows the order] ushered more than 6,300 recovering virus patients into nursing homes at the height of the pandemic.”

But a new state report now claims the nursing home coronavirus deaths were not caused by Cuomo’s policies. The report says the deaths were mostly caused by infected staff members who spread the virus.

The report “said 80% of the 310 nursing homes that admitted coronavirus patients already had a confirmed or suspected case among its residents or staff before the directive was issued,” according to the AP. “And it contends the median number of coronavirus patients sent to nursing homes had been hospitalized for nine days, the same period that the study said it likely takes for the virus to no longer be contagious.”

“[T]he 33-page state report flatly says ‘that nursing home admissions from hospitals were not a driver of nursing home infections or fatalities,'” the AP reported.

Scientists disagreed. “Would this get published in an academic journal? No,” University of Texas, Houston, epidemiologist Catherine Troisi told The Associated Press.

Denis Nash, an epidemiologist at the City University of New York School of Public Health, said there were problems with the report. He told the AP that the number of nursing home deaths in records kept by the state doesn’t include residents who were transferred to and later died at a hospital. Nash said that is a “potentially huge problem” that undercounts the virus’ toll and could “introduce bias into the analysis.”

Rep. Steve Scalise (R-LA), a leader of a House subcommittee on the COVID-19 crisis, said in a letter to Cuomo last week that “[b]lame-shifting, name-calling, and half-baked data manipulations will not make the facts or the questions they raise go away.”

In the past, Cuomo also claimed that the staggering death toll in New York nursing homes was the fault of the federal government.

“We followed federal guidance on the nursing homes,” Cuomo said in late June on NBC’s “Today Show.”

“We had more people die than any other state. That’s a fact,” Cuomo said. “The reason that happened was because we had the virus coming from Europe when the federal government told us the virus was coming from China. And we had no screening on people coming from Europe.”

The White House immediately fired back.

“Governor Cuomo alone is to blame for refusing to shut down New York and forcing seniors who tested positive for coronavirus back into his state’s nursing homes,” White House spokesman Hogan Gidley said in a statement.

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