Albany, NY – New York Governor Andrew Cuomo once again tried to defer blame and pass the buck on nursing home deaths in his state, but only dug himself a deeper hole on Monday. Cuomo tried to explain why he decided to hide facts and data on nursing home deaths from the public. The Governor said regardless of the information he released, those people would have died either way.
Why did Cuomo withhold data from the state legislature in 2020?
“This past year, there was a toxic political environment and everything gets politicized and there’s political spin and then there are facts — two very different things and I just want to be sure people have facts,” Cuomo said at Monday’s press briefing. ” Last August, Department of Justice sent a letter to Democratic governors, four of them: New York, New Jersey, Michigan, and Pennsylvania asking for information on public nursing homes. New York State Legislature also sent a letter asking for information on nursing homes. We paused the State Legislators’ request while we were finishing the DOJ request. We told both houses, the Assembly and the Senate, that we had a DOJ request for information and we were prioritizing that. We did give the DOJ request precedence and we told both houses that. The August request, we replied to fully. Separately, DOH got a DOJ letter signed by Jeffrey Clark, the attorney, in October — which we learned about from the New York Post. We didn’t even get the letter. The Post called and told us about the letter and that requested information on private nursing homes and we have been voluntarily producing information on that on a rolling basis as recently as January 8 as offered by DOJ —’ the rolling basis production.”
Cuomo says he decided to “pause” the State Legislature’s request, a pause that continued until the New York Attorney General’s Office issued a statement claiming the Governor’s figures could be as much as twice as high as previously reported.
Why did Cuomo send infected COVID-19 patients into nursing homes?
The Governor passed the blame on his decision to force nursing homes to take COVID-19 positive patients into their facilities. This happened at a time when testing was not readily available, the nursing homes were underequipped to handle the new outbreak and little was known about the virus.
“On March 13, federal Center for Medicaid and Medical Services — what they call CMS— and on March 23, the Center for Disease Control, the CDC, put out guidance sending people from hospitals back to nursing homes. New York State DOH followed that guidance. Twelve other states, at least, followed guidance,” Cuomo said. “The CDC, CMS, DOH reasoning at the time — residents who were leaving the hospitals were not likely to be contagious because at that time, the viral load is so low that you’re not contagious and they were going to be what’s called “cohorted;” Cared for on areas that are separately with other people under the right precautions.”
Cuomo said nursing homes are the real criminals here
Instead, Cuomo blamed the nursing homes for taking patients they could not properly care for and accused those homes of criminal behavior.
“The patients were not sent to nursing homes. The nursing home had to agree that they could agree to care for this person. That is a matter of law,” Cuomo said after signing an order that told nursing homes they could not reject patients based on their COVID-19 status. “They cannot accept a patient who they are not prepared to care for properly: staff, PPE, ability to cohort. That is in the law. If they don’t do that, they violate the law.”
It was a different time, Cuomo said, fearing that the hospital system would be overrun, yet in New York City, a Navy hospital ship meant to care for COVID-19 patients was hardly used.
“At the time, remember what was going on in March. The experts were projecting that our problem and our critical need was hospital capacity. We sat here every day with the hospitalization chart. We were looking at up to 140,000 people hospitalized,” Cuomo said. “We have less than 50,000 hospital beds. That is the calamity. Remember, March 25, that’s right when the New York City Health & Hospitals collapsed. It was national news.”
It doesn’t matter, those nursing homes already had COVID-19
Cuomo said it wouldn’t have mattered anyway because COVID-19 was already rampant in those nursing homes he directed to not refuse new COVID-19 patients. Instead, he blamed visitors and workers in those homes.
Cuomo noted that of 613 nursing homes, we have 613 nursing homes in the state; 365 received a person from a hospital. Of the 365, that received a person from this March 25 guidance which was superseded in May — 98 percent of those 365 already had COVID in their facility.
“COVID did not get into the nursing homes by people coming from hospitals. COID got into the nursing homes by staff walking in to the nursing homes when we didn’t even know we had COVID. Staff walking into a nursing home even if they were asymptomatic because the national experts all told us you could only spread COVID if you had symptoms and they were wrong,” he said. “COVID may have been brought into a nursing home because visitors brought it in and didn’t know they were contagious because the guidance was, you can only be contagious if you have symptoms: if you’re sneezing, if you’re coughing. That turned out to be wrong. That’s how COVID got into the nursing homes. 98 percent of the people who took a person back from a hospital, who was probably no longer contagious, already had it in the facility and they signed and agreed that they could handle it because they already had people who were COVID positive in the nursing home.”