Gov. Defends New York's Nursing Home Guidance During Pandemic | WAMC

Gov. Defends New York's Nursing Home Guidance During Pandemic

May 20, 2020

Governor Andrew Cuomo is continuing to face questions over New York’s nursing home policies pertaining to COVID-19. The Democrat is responding by pointing to federal guidance. 

To date, New York has disclosed more than 5,800 total deaths, confirmed or presumed, at the state’s nursing homes and adult care facilities.

For the last several weeks, Governor Andrew Cuomo and state health officials have faced criticism about the state’s policies regarding nursing homes, and how long-term care facilities were able to readmit patients that tested positive for or were hospitalized for coronavirus.

On May 10th, Cuomo announced that hospitals cannot discharge a patient to a nursing home unless the patient tests negative for COVID-19. The directive requires any nursing home that cannot care for a patient to contact the state to find alternative care.

But a March 25th a memo released by the state Health Department stated that “no resident shall be denied re-admission or admission to the [nursing home] solely based on a confirmed or suspected diagnosis of COVID-19.”

Governor Cuomo has continued to defend the state’s coronavirus response at nursing homes. He again was asked by reporters about the March memo Wednesday at the capitol.

“Anyone who wants to ask, ‘Why did the state do that with COVID patients in nursing homes?’ It’s because the state followed President Trump’s CDC guidance. So they should ask President Trump. I think that would stop the conversation,” said Cuomo.

Cuomo points to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidance that says “testing should not be required prior to transfer of a resident from an acute-care facility to a nursing home.” The CDC recommends new or re-admitted COVID-19 patients who do meet criteria for discontinuation of Transmission-Based Precautions be placed in a separate care unit.  

More than two months after restrictions first went into effect in New York, some elected officials are asking for answers. Last week, New York Republican congressmembers wrote to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services seeking an investigation, saying the state’s policies “have created a dangerous environment where residents of long-term care facilities are at an even greater risk and healthcare workers face a near impossible task of preventing the spread of the virus from new COVID-19 positive patients.”

The governor shrugged off the possibility of a federal probe on Wednesday.

“It is not relevant to me. I have no role in determining a federal probe. I don’t welcome, not welcome, it doesn’t matter. President Trump does what he wants to do.  He doesn’t listen to a governor,” said Cuomo.

Governor Cuomo also spent time Wednesday providing more information on the health disparities among minority communities during the pandemic. The state has launched an effort to study the impacts of COVID-19 in low-income and predominantly minority communities in New York City. In a study involving 8,000 antibody tests in low-income communities, 27 percent tested positive for antibodies.

Governor Cuomo asked local governments to coordinate testing and outreach efforts in such communities across New York.

“Do the testing and do the outreach. That’s where the cases are coming from. That’s where the new cases are coming from, that’s what’s going into the hospital system. That’s where you’re going to see the highest number of deaths,” said Cuomo.

On Monday, a joint hearing of the New York State legislature took hours of testimony examining the disproportionate impact of COVID-19 on minority communities.

During the hearing, Reggie Nance, Associate State Director for Multicultural Engagement for AARP New York, made a number of comments about New York’s response in nursing and adult care facilities.

“The governor said that when this thing hits a nursing home it’s like fire through dry grass. The fire shows no signs of abatement and there’s things we can do to take care of that,” said Nance.

AARP New York is seeking a Long Term Care COVID Taskforce. It wants to extend a recent mandate that nursing home staff be tested twice a week to facility residents, as well as home care staff. AARP also wants the state’s Long Term Care Ombudsman Program to return to nursing homes.