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COVID-19: Cuomo's Nursing Home Directive Led To Additional Deaths, New Report Says

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo at a COVID-19 briefing in New York City on Monday, June 7.
New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo at a COVID-19 briefing in New York City on Monday, June 7. Photo Credit:

Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s directive last spring to nursing homes in New York to admit COVID-19 patients led to additional deaths, according to a newly released report✎ EditSign.

The New York State Bar Association Task Force on Nursing Homes and Long-Term Care released the 242-page report criticizing the governor for not reversing the March 2020 order earlier than he did.

“Although a determination of the number of additional nursing home deaths is beyond the capacity of the Task Force, there are credible reviews that suggest that the directive, for the approximately six weeks, that it was in effect, did lead to some number of additional deaths,” the report states.

“The Department of Health issued a report in 2020 in which it argued unconvincingly that the admission of 6,326 COVID-positive residents during the period the Health directive was in effect had no impact. That cannot be the case, and has now been shown not to be the case.”

According to the Task Force, the report is based on information “from the onset of the pandemic through the end of April 2021,” though it was noted that at the time of Cuomo’s directive, the state was facing an emergency situation and potentially required additional hospital beds.

Noting that the pandemic disproportionately impacted nursing homes, the report states that nearly 40 percent of COVID-19-related deaths in the US have been in nursing homes and nearly 14,000 New York residents of nursing homes died due to the virus.

The 16-member task force who prepared the report faulted the “absoluteness” of the Health Department’s directive, which required nursing homes to admit “medically stable” COVID-19 patients discharged from hospitals, and said it “was commonly read” as overriding a regulation for the facilities to only accept patients for whom they could properly care.

In the report, the task force said it was “unreasonable” to leave the directive in place for as long as the state did before it was reversed on May 10, more than a month after it was initially issued.

Cuomo previously said that the directive was made as New York was looking at projections that could have potentially overwhelmed the state’s hospital system due to the virus.

However, the report notes that field hospitals set up by Cuomo’s administration were left largely unused.

“Hospitalizations peaked on April 14. The hospital beds at the Javits Center were barely used, and the USNS Comfort sat empty in the Hudson River,” the report states. “The Comfort set sail from New York City on April 23. The March 25 directive could have been rescinded on or about the date the Comfort set sail, if not sooner.”

According to the report, the numbers being floated - including 15,000 alleged deaths in New York nursing homes - were inflated and were not completely the fault of the directive.

“The 15,000 number that has been bandied about is the approximate total number of New York long-term care facility residents who have succumbed to the virus,” the report states. “This figure includes nursing home residents who passed away long after the directive had been rescinded. It includes residents who were unaffected by the order.

“This is not to say that the directive did not result in any additional deaths,” it notes.

A Health Department spokesperson echoed Cuomo’s previous quotes and said that it is a case of politicians playing political football and airing out personal vendettas.

“This latest report, like others before it, supports what we’ve said all along, that New York was blind-sided and got hit the hardest,” a spokesman said. “That when Covid got into communities it quickly and quietly spread from asymptomatic staff into nursing homes, and that New York’s nursing home experience was not unlike that of other states.”

The complete report can be found here✎ EditSign.

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