NEW YORK, NY – Facing allegations of misleading lawmakers and misinforming the public regarding the 2020 COVID-19 outbreaks in nursing homes that killed thousands of senior citizens, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo said those nursing homes are to blame not him. Cuomo also said his order to force nursing homes to accept COVID-19 patients didn’t make a difference, because COVID-19 was already in those homes and people were going to die either way.
Cuomo alleges criminal behavior at nursing homes
“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 as he deflected blame to the nursing homes. “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.”
Cuomo also blamed the federal Center for Medicaid and Medical Services and the Centers for Disease Control for telling him it was alright to send COVID-19 positive patients into nursing homes.
“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,” Cuomo said. “Twelve other states, at least, followed guidance. 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.”
Department of Justice is investigating four states that forced nursing homes to accept COVID-19 positive patients
Four states however are under scrutiny, New York, Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Michigan.
On August 26, 2020, the Department of Justice launched a federal investigation into how those states handled the situation and to see if decisions made by governors of those states led to an unnecessary increase in deaths among seniors in assisted living facilities.
“Protecting the rights of some of society’s most vulnerable members, including elderly nursing home residents, is one of our country’s most important obligations,” said Assistant Attorney General for Civil Rights Division Eric Dreiband. “We must ensure they are adequately cared for with dignity and respect and not unnecessarily put at risk.”
According to the Centers for Disease Control, New York has the highest number of COVID-19 deaths in the United States, with 32,592 victims, many of them elderly. New York’s death rate by population is the second highest in the country with 1,680 deaths per million people. New Jersey’s death rate by population is 1,733 deaths per million people – the highest in the nation. In contrast, Texas’s death rate by population is 380 deaths per million people; and Texas has just over 11,000 deaths, though its population is 50 percent larger than New York and has many more recorded cases of COVID-19 – 577,537 cases in Texas versus 430,885 cases in New York. Florida’s COVID-19 death rate is 480 deaths per million; with total deaths of 10,325 and a population slightly larger than New York.
The Justice Department investigation is continuing to see whether or not those states violated patients’ civil rights and to determine if the state orders requiring admission of COVID-19 patients to nursing homes are responsible for the deaths of nursing home residents.
Nursing home workers brought COVID-19 into the facilities, not Cuomo
The governor said his executive directive denying nursing homes the ability to reject COVID-19 patients did not bring COVID-19 into those facilities, their own workers did.
“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,” Cuomo added. “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.”