New York's Governor Andrew Cuomo, who was notorious for having issued a March 25 directive requiring nursing homes to accept COVID positive patients, told Finger Lakes Daily that the whole ordeal "it never happened."
"And we never needed nursing home beds," he said. "because we always had hospital beds, so it just never happened in New York, where we needed to say to a nursing home 'we need you to take this person even though they're COVID positive, it never happened. We had extra beds, we had extra beds at Javits [Convention Center], we had extra beds at emergency hospitals that we put up all across the state. So it just never happened that we needed a nursing home to take a COVID positive person. It never happened."
These shocking words were spoken by the governor on the radio despite there being ample evidence from earlier in the pandemic that COVID positive patients were being transferred back to nursing homes.
ProPublica, a left-leaning investigative journalism outlet, took a hard look at the situation in New York's nursing home COVID deaths and cases in July.
They found that under Cuomo's policy, "more than 6,000 COVID-19 patients were sent from hospitals to nursing homes across the state, a move that scared and enraged many families worried about their loved ones being exposed to the deadly virus. To date, at least 6,500 nursing home residents have died of the virus, more than 6 percent of the state's entire nursing home population."
They cited a study from the administration, that showed that "58 nursing homes in the state had not seen a case of COVID-19 among staff or residents before the arrival of one of the coronavirus patients from the hospital."
ProPublica also tracked the story of the Diamond Hill nursing home in Troy, in the northern part of the state, where "a resident in the home had recently gone to the hospital, where she tested positive for COVID-19. The resident was set to return to Diamond Hill, making her the first confirmed COVID-19 case at the 120-bed facility north of Albany." This was only a week after the March 25 directive.
"By June, 18, of Diamond Hill’s residents had died from the virus and 58 had been infected. At least 50 of the facility’s more than 100 workers had also been sickened with COVID-19," ProPublica reported.
The AP also reported that as many as 4,500 persons were transferred from hospitals to nursing homes while still infected with COVID-19, and that was on May 22. But according to the governor, "it never happened."
The Governor downplayed the nursing home deaths in New York State, saying that New York is "number 46 out of 50 states, and we had the worst problem, and we're 46th in terms of percentage of deaths at nursing homes." And he continued to blame the federal government rather than his own policies and directives.
"Ignorance doesn't help grieving people," Cuomo said. "The rule that the state had, which was from the CDC guidance, the state didn't make it up, they were following CDC guidance... but the rule said the nursing home can't discriminate on the basis of COVID. The law also said a nursing home cannot accept a person who they cannot treat effectively while protecting the other residents."
"And that's why," he went on to say, "the anticipatory rule was that you can't discriminate against a COVID positive person, but you'd have to be able to take of them without infecting other people and if you can't do that you can't accept them."
Then he called Finger Lakes Daily "mean" for suggesting that his policies directly led to unnecessary deaths. "I understand where you are," he said, "but a loved one, having someone who lost a loved one, saying to them 'well this was a government mess up...' That's just incorrect, untrue, and frankly it's mean," the governor said.
It wasn't until May 11 that Cuomo reversed his initial, March 25 directive, which required nursing homes to accept COVID positive patients, and deleted the directive from New York State government websites entirely.
In late May, Patrice Russo, a nurse who was one of about 1,000 from across the country who answered Governor Andrew Cuomo's call for medical personnel, said that she saw, first hand, the effect of COVID positive persons transferring from hospitals back to nursing homes.
"Yeah," she said, "that's exactly what happened. And I was unaware of the order at the time. I just, one day I went to work, and one of the patients that we got in was from being discharged from a hospital and came in as a COVID positive, recovering, patient. And that's when it first started. We started seeing it more and more, and they would literally just bring them in, and they would be placed in the same suite as a healthy, non-COVID patient."
New York state has recorded over 6,600 deaths in nursing homes from COVID-19 related causes. However, that figure does not include those nursing home residents who contracted the virus and only died after being taken to a hospital. Those deaths are not recorded as ones associated with nursing homes.
State Senator Tom O'Mara believes the number of nursing home deaths as a result of COVID could far exceed the 6,600 tally, and that it could even be double. O'Mara is co-sponsoring a bill in the state legislature to force the Department of Health to do an accurate assessment.
Cuomo was on Finger Lakes Daily to discuss his insistence that New York municipal governments ramp up their enforcement of the face mask-mandate that his office has issued. He said that "I put my head on the pillow at night saying I saved lives, that's how I sleep at night."
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