On May 10, 2020, Gov. Andrew Cuomo issued Executive Order No. 202.30. This Order reversed the New York State Health Department’s destructive policy requiring nursing homes not to bar “medically stable” COVID-19 patients from admission. Executive Order No. 202.30 reads, in pertinent part, as follows:
Any article 28 general hospital shall not discharge a patient to a nursing home, unless the nursing home operator or administrator has first certified that it is able to properly care for such patient. Provided further, that any article 28 general hospital shall not discharge a patient to a nursing home, without first performing a diagnostic test for COVID-19 and obtaining a negative result.
While the Governor’s action is a welcome relief for nursing home patients and staff, New Yorkers should not forget that nursing homes were required to admit COVID-19 patients for a total of 46 days. Given the relentless criticism that Gov. Cuomo faced because of this policy, it is completely unacceptable that it took 46 days for him to reverse course. Frankly, it is unacceptable that such a policy was ever implemented in the first place. As of May 12, 2020, more than 5,300 nursing home residents had lost their lives to COVID-19. The virus spread like wildfire at nursing homes, many of which lacked the facilities and supplies to adequately quarantine COVID-19 patients or to protect their staff members from infection. The Governor bears significant responsibility for this terrible outcome.
Gov. Cuomo’s response to the tragic situation at New York’s nursing homes has been characterized by denial, arrogance, and bullying. When the Governor was first questioned about the Health Department’s requirement that nursing homes admit COVID-19 patients, he said that he knew nothing of it. Later, Gov. Cuomo went on the attack, claiming that it was not the state’s responsibility to provide nursing homes with personal protective equipment. The Governor added that if nursing homes were unable to provide their staff with such equipment, they should lose their licenses; he went on to launch a state investigation of nursing home performance during the pandemic. Claims made by the Governor and his staff that nursing homes were not forced to take COVID-19 patients if they did not believe that they could adequately care for them are contradicted by the nursing homes themselves. Even the Governor’s Executive Order 202.30 is flawed, as it contains heavy-handed provisions for nursing homes to be fined and otherwise punished for non-compliance.
To date, Gov. Cuomo has refused to accept responsibility for the nursing home debacle. As Michael Goodwin of the New York Post so aptly stated, “Cuomo’s pride and political calculations don’t allow him to admit error even as he finally reverses one of the mostly deadly policy mistakes in New York history.”
New Yorkers for Constitutional Freedoms joins former Gov. George Pataki and a bipartisan group of lawmakers in calling for an independent investigation of the impact of government policy upon COVID-19 deaths at New York’s nursing homes.