In light of New York Governor Andrew Cuomo being awarded an Emmy on Monday for his “masterful” COVID-19 briefings, I feel it is necessary to reexamine the record and clarify definitively the degree of culpability with which Governor Cuomo is responsible for the deaths of over 6,300 New Yorkers due to his office’s nursing home directive.
To begin, Cuomo’s “Nursing Home Directive” was issued back on March 25th; the directive was later removed from the governor’s official website.
It is clear when reading the March 25th decree that the intended goal was to free up valuable hospital and medical resources for the incoming tidal wave of COVID-19 patients.
A Deadly Mistake
Ultimately, the expanded resources New York prepared in anticipation of a massive influx of sick COVID-19 patients proved unnecessary; the Javits Center which was hastily reconfigured as a makeshift hospital never saw one patient wheeled through its doors.
The USNS Comfort, a hospital ship berthed in New York harbor, went unused throughout the crisis before eventually departing.
While pandemic modeling is an imperfect science and it’s usually wise to err on the side of caution, Cuomo’s March 25th nursing home decree is particularly damning in that it forced nursing homes to admit discharged hospital patients, even if they were infected with COVID-19.
The decree went even further, refusing to allow nursing homes to even test these patients for COVID-19 before admitting them.
The decree itself is a direct window into the thinking of Governor Cuomo; sick, elderly nursing home patients are a drain on the hospitals and need to be hastily discharged and shipped out to make room for the anticipated wave of fresh COVID-19 patients.
Governor Cuomo Nursing Home Decree
Apparently, the weakest, frailest members of society were beneath consideration to Governor Cuomo. The reasoning behind the decree was to expedite and remove sick, elderly nursing home patients in New York hospitals in order to make room for other sick COVID-19 patients that were filling up the beds.
All the while the Governor was going on TV day after day explaining how the primary goal was to “protect grandma.”
Well by forcing the nursing homes to admit grandma without even being allowed to test her for covid-19, he effectively transformed the nursing homes into virus hot zones.
With discharged patients returning to the nursing homes transmitting COVID-19 to the staff, it wasn’t long before everyone, from patients to staff, were infected.
For a virus that statistically presented a mortal danger only to the elderly, Cuomo’s decree ensured that the nursing homes would be riddled with it.
The results of this disastrous policy speak for themselves; the decree was nothing short of a communal death sentence; over 6,300 nursing home residents in New York perished as the virus rampaged throughout the nursing homes like a bull in a china shop.
Sick and elderly residents, the weakest and most vulnerable segments of our population, were quite literally trapped in COVID-19 virus incubators and then left to suffer and die alone, hapless victims condemned to a solitary death without any family or visitations allowed.
Far from protecting the weakest demographic, Cuomo’s order effectively condemned them. The 6,300 figure, often touted as the death toll attributed to Cuomo’s decree, is itself vastly understated.
Denis Nash, an epidemiologist at the City University of New York School of Public Health, stated that New York’s nursing home death toll figure of 6,300 doesn’t include nursing home residents who died at a hospital, a “potentially huge problem” that undercounts the virus’ actual toll.
Cuomo Passing Around Blame
While no one is saying that the nursing home deaths in New York aren’t a tragedy, the Governor and his supporters have spent plenty of time absolving him of any fault or responsibility with regards to the mass deaths in his state.
Defending himself, Governor Cuomo repeatedly cited that he was only following guidelines set forth by the CDC and Trump administration when issuing the March 25th decree.
Absolving himself of personal responsibility while blaming President Trump for every COVID-19 death in America is very much Cuomo’s style.
But was he really following CDC guidelines when he issued the order?
According to Politifact, the CDC cited two “key factors” for discharging patients to long term care facilities. First, is the patient medically ready to be discharged, and second, is the long term care facility selected able to safely implement all recommended infection control procedures.
These recommendations, it should be noted, were in place and predate Cuomo’s March 25th decree that forced nursing homes to admit all discharged patients without allowing them to even test them for COVID-19 first.
The CMS Steps In
Seema Verma, the top administrator for the CMS, the federal regulator of nursing homes, attacked Cuomo for saying he was only complying with CDC guidelines when issuing the order.
She cited a March 13th CMS document stating that “Per CDC, prompt detection, triage and isolation of potentially infectious residents are essential to prevent unnecessary exposures among residents, healthcare personnel, and visitors at the facility. Therefore, facilities should continue to be vigilant in identifying any possible infected individuals.”
It’s pretty hard to be vigilant in identifying any possible infected individuals when the Cuomo decree refused to let nursing homes even test patients for the virus.
The CMS guidelines also promoted other COVID-19 safety measures for nursing homes, all ignored by Cuomo’s decree which forced the homes to admit patients without being able to even test them first to determine if they are infected and contagious.
AMDA Issues A Statement
The AMDA Society for Post Acute and Long Term Care Medicine issued its own statement on March 26th, immediately following Cuomo’s nursing home decree and opposing it. –Source
“We find the New York State Advisory to be over-reaching, not consistent with science, unenforceable, and beyond all, not in the least consistent with patient safety principles.”
A joint statement, issued March 29th by the AMDA, AHCA, and NCAL, strongly opposed the decree.
The 3 page statement is a damning excoriation of Cuomo’s order and prophetic in accurately predicting the severe consequences of the ill-conceived March 25th decree.
If only Governor Cuomo would have read these memos.
If only he would have listened.
If only he would accept culpability for issuing a controversial decree that killed thousands, if not tens of thousands of New Yorkers.
A decree that was strongly opposed by experts and organizations, both from within and without the government.
Cuomo’s retort that he was “just following Trump’s and the CDC’s guidelines” is a ridiculous lie and he should be punished for it.
There was never a policy set in place to force nursing homes to accept all discharged patients immediately without even allowing them to test them for COVID-19.
The only thing worse than that lie is the lie about the number being 6,300 itself.
That number, tallied between March 25th, when the death decree was issued, until May 10th, when Cuomo, under pressure, reversed it, only counts deaths that occurred in the nursing homes themselves and explicitly ignores all of the deaths attributed to it in hospitals or anywhere else.
Multiple sources have confirmed that with the statements from AMDA and CMS hundreds of civil suits claiming negligence against Cuomo and the State from surviving family members will begin to emerge.
Cuomo Could Have Prevented Nursing Home Tragedy
How Andrew Cuomo’s record is not sullied for ignoring the advice of experts and instituting a statewide policy designed to turn nursing homes into virus hot zones is beyond me.
Thankfully, Governor Cuomo is a Democrat, so instead of holding him accountable for his actions, we can instead agree that all the COVID-19 deaths are really Donald Trump’s fault, and his alone.
And you know what, while we’re at it, let’s give Cuomo an Emmy award.
Bonus: In one of the absolute dumbest comments I’ve seen concerning the NY nursing home death toll, Dr. Howard Zucker, NY state health commissioner and Cuomo’s lackey told reporters: “If I were to place blame, I would blame coronavirus.”