May 18, 2020

Cuomo’s COVID-19 Response Failure

Another review of his order mandating that nursing homes accept coronavirus patients.

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo was hit with some well-deserved criticism after last week brought news that at least 5,400 COVID-19 deaths in the state have come from nursing homes. Back in March, in the early days of the China Virus pandemic, Cuomo issued an order mandating that nursing homes accept patients who had tested positive for COVID-19 rather than send them to hospitals. It was well known at the time that in Washington, one of the earliest states to experience the COVID-19 outbreak, nursing homes were hit especially hard. Cuomo’s mandate was counterintuitive and deadly.

Ironically, back in April, Cuomo labeled nursing homes as “ground zero” for the pandemic, but he also used that label to criticize those nursing homes. “If they cannot provide that care, then they have to transfer the person to another facility,” he said. “Those are the rules. They get paid to take care of a resident.” And yet the governor’s standing order required these same facilities to continue accepting infected patients, which resulted in a least 19 infected patients being sent from the hospital back to nursing homes.

The latest news is that New York officials have been fudging the statistics on the number of nursing-home patients that have died from the virus, as only deaths that occur at these long-term-care facilities are being recorded as nursing-home deaths. Any nursing-home resident who was infected at the facility and was then moved to a hospital and died within 24 hours has not been included in nursing-home death totals. New estimates of nursing-home deaths, including those sent to the hospital, add at least 1,700 to the total number. Cuomo’s order spread the virus to the most vulnerable.

Cuomo’s responses to the new criticism has been nothing but deflections. “People died. Older people, vulnerable people are going to die from this virus. That is going to happen despite whatever you do. You can have a situation where everyone did the right thing and everyone tried their best, and people still die,” he lectured. “Look, people rationalize death in different ways. I don’t think there was any logical rationale to say they would be alive today.”

Interestingly, New York data also indicates that, far from preventing the spread of COVID-19, Cuomo’s lockdown order did little to stop the spread at all. Some 66% of the new infections in the state came from people who were sheltering in place. Maybe Cuomo should have done more to focus on protecting and quarantining the most vulnerable rather than issuing a one-size-fits-all shutdown order.

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