Andrew Cuomo Reverses Order Making Nursing Homes Take Coronavirus Patients After Thousands Die

State   |   Micaiah Bilger   |   May 11, 2020   |   1:49PM   |   Albany, New York

The praise for New York Gov. Andre Cuomo’s handling of the coronavirus outbreak is turning to harsh criticism after he ordered nursing homes to accept coronavirus patients.

People who live in nursing homes, including the elderly and people with disabilities, are at greater risk of dying from the virus; and Cuomo’s order led many to question whether it would do more harm than good.

Now, amid mounting nursing home deaths and news reports exposing the questionable directive, Cuomo quietly reversed the order over the weekend, The Post Millennial reports. The March 25 order is now gone from government websites, according to the report.

The change comes as news outlets report a devastating number of coronavirus-related deaths in New York nursing homes.

According to New York Post, figures from the state Department of Health suggest the virus has killed more than 5% of state nursing home residents.

“As of the start of Sunday, there were 2,598 confirmed COVID-19 deaths in the facilities statewide, the DOH said. There also were 2,646 fatal presumed coronavirus cases in New York nursing homes, in which the deceased weren’t officially tested but displayed telltale symptoms of the contagion,” according to the report. “Both figures total 5,244 deaths, or nearly 5.2 percent of the state’s nursing-home population of 101,518.”

Politico reported the same numbers as it highlighted growing criticism from health industry leaders and Republicans about Cuomo’s order.

Richard J. Mollot, executive director of the Long Term Care Community Coalition, told the news outlet that some of the state health directives were “pretty disastrous.”

Here’s more from the report:

Mollot argued that while New York began limiting visitation at nursing homes and requiring facilities to perform staff health checks and wear personal protective equipment in mid-March, that policy also shut out ombudsmen who serve as advocates and resources for nursing home residents.

State health officials, he added, also directed nursing homes to accept Covid-19 patients, even after the AMDA – The Society for Post-Acute and Long-Term Care Medicine came out against the policy and other states followed suit.

“I think that policy was, unfortunately, one of the things that led to a lot of avoidable harm,” he said.

New York Senate Republican Leader John Flanagan also criticized the governor for not protecting the most vulnerable.

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“We know that allowing COVID into a nursing home is an invitation for it to spread, and we need to make sure that we take necessary steps to protect residents,” Flanagan said earlier this spring.

Initially, a Cuomo spokesperson defended the nursing home order, arguing that it was based on “CDC guidelines” and “virtually identical to several other states.”

But Townhall columnist Guy Benson blasted the order as “so obviously reckless and idiotic” that it is hard to praise Cuomo now that he has reversed it.

He wrote:

I’m tempted to chalk this one up in the ‘better late than never’ column, but hoo boy. New York’s erstwhile policies were so obviously reckless and idiotic that it’s hard to assign any credit to Cuomo for finally replacing them in the second week of May. In fact, I’m inclined to react … the same way I did when Cuomo finally told the public that the New York City subway system would be cleaned on a nightly basis: Wait, that wasn’t already happening already, and it’s taken you this long to get around to doing it? How?

In March, as the crisis broke, pro-life leaders urged state and federal leaders to protect people who are elderly and have disabilities from medical discrimination.

National Right to Life sent a letter to President Donald Trump, HHS Secretary Alex Azar and OCR Director Roger Severino sounding the alarm about the danger of medical discrimination and the need to protect persons with disabilities, the elderly, and individuals with chronic conditions. The leading pro-life organization emphasized that every human life is valuable.

Soon afterward, the Office of Civil Rights (OCR) at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) issued a bulletin directing hospitals and medical centers to follow the law to ensure that civil rights are not violated in the treatment of those diagnosed with COVID-19.

OCR Director Roger Severino said: “Our civil rights laws protect the equal dignity of every human life from ruthless utilitarianism. HHS is committed to leaving no one behind during an emergency and helping health care providers meet that goal. Persons with disabilities, with limited English skills and older persons should not be put at the end of the line for health care during emergencies.”