One architect of a new report on New York state’s nursing home deaths linked to COVID-19 said Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s March 2020 order forcing nursing homes to accept patients with the coronavirus “led to disaster.”
The report from the New York State Bar Association rejects Cuomo’s contention that he is blameless in the deaths of thousands of New Yorkers.
New York State Attorney General Letitia James has estimated 15,000 elderly New Yorkers died in nursing homes due to COVID-19.
“Cuomo lit the match and the nursing homes were the kerosene,” said Tracy Alvino, whose father was among the state’s COVID-19 victims while in a nursing home, according to the New York Post.
“It was a failure at every level,” Alvino said. “The nursing homes were unable to protect nursing home patients after accepting COVID patients.”
“If the March 25 order wasn’t issued, countless lives would have been saved. These were preventable deaths,” she said.
The report was the product of a Bar Association Task Force convened to get past the denials issued from the Cuomo administration and “try to get some insight into what happened, why there were so many deaths, why they weren’t able to communicate with their loved ones and why we had such a bad outcome during the early part of the COVID crisis,” said task force member John Dalli, according to Spectrum Local News.
The Cuomo order was central to the group’s work, he said.
“It led to a disaster,” Dalli said. “They should have realized it within two weeks. They didn’t. It went on too long, and there’s no doubt in my mind it led to additional deaths that certainly contributed to that 15,000-plus number.”
The report said accurate numbers may never be known, but the order’s impact is clear.
“Although a determination of the number of additional nursing home deaths is beyond the capacity of the Task Force, there are credible reviews that suggest that the directive, for the approximately six weeks that it was in effect, did lead to some number of additional deaths,” the report said.
“The Department of Health issued a report in 2020 in which it argued unconvincingly that the admission of 6,326 COVID-positive residents during the period the Health directive was in effect had no impact. That cannot be the case, and has now been shown not to be the case,” it said.
“Also unreasonable was the absoluteness of the directive,” the report said.
Normally, nursing homes only accept patients for whom they can provide adequate care, it said. The Cuomo order threw that standard to the winds.
“The directive came at a time when regulations were routinely being overridden,” the report said, adding, “Providers were told to follow the Department of Health’s instructions.”
Although the report noted that March 25, 2020, when the order was issued, was a time of great uncertainty over the course of the coronavirus, it was clear long before Cuomo rescinded it on May 10, 2020, that the state had more than enough beds for coronavirus victims.
“[I]t was unreasonable to leave the directive in place for so long,” the report said. “Hospitalizations peaked on April 14th. The hospital beds at the Javits Center were barely used, and the USNS Comfort sat empty in the Hudson River. The Comfort set sail from New York City on April 23rd. The March 25th directive could have been rescinded on or about the date the Comfort set sail, if not sooner.”
Democratic Assemblyman Ron Kim, whose uncle died in a Queens nursing home after suffering symptoms of COVID-19, said the report will be “the beginning of many other reports that will come to prove the deadly impact of the March 25 order.”
“The window of being truthful and asking for forgiveness is gone,” Kim said, according to the Post.
“I think there was a small window early on where they could have admitted their mistake and asked for forgiveness but now they have tripled down on their lies amid cover-ups, where if they admit the truth, they admit to acting criminally,” he said.
“All of us families left in the dark, we want justice, we want accountability,” said Danielle Messina of Staten Island, according to the Staten Island Advance.
“This is stuff that we’ve been continuously, continuously saying for 15 months, and we’ll still continue to say it,” said Messina, whose father died at a nursing facility in late April 2020.
Cuomo “did a lot of wrongdoing and a lot of damage. We can’t bring our loved ones back, but he can move forward. The order definitely caused more death,” she said.
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