New York Governor Andrew Cuomo is under fire yet again. His severe lapses in judgment are coming back for revenge, creating a long list of things he must atone for.
In a new report released by the New York State Bar Association, our worst fears about the coronavirus nursing home situation in New York have come true.
If you don’t recall, on March 25, 2020, Governor Cuomo issued a directive that forced over 6,300 infected coronavirus-positive patients into nursing homes around the state to make room in the hospitals to receive new coronavirus patients.
It seems like a noble intent until you find out that there was no forethought to the impact it would have on the weak-immuned already living in the nursing homes. They were only forced to increase the amount of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) they kept on hand when PPE was short in supply and high in cost.
Not only were they forced to increase their operating costs, but many were also underequipped to handle the influx in patients or even provide the medical care they so desperately needed.
Meanwhile, every hospital bed at the Jacob Javits Center and the USNS Comfort were empty, well-equipped, and ready for patients.
The 242-page report by the NYSBA’s Task Force on Nursing Homes and Long-Term Care also criticizes Cuomo for failing to reverse the Department of Health’s “unreasonable” mandate sooner, claiming it remained in effect for weeks longer than necessary.
The NYSBA task force found that when the Department of Health issued the now infamous Advisory to nursing homes, the Advisory was explicitly issued out of concern for hospital capacity, regardless of the impact to nursing homes.
It said so on page 25. “There is an urgent need to expand hospital capacity in New York State to be able to meet the demand for patients with COVID-19 requiring acute care.”
Cuomo even had the nerve to speak during the arrival of the USNS Comfort on March 30, 2020, instead of capitalizing on its medical services to provide care to New York citizens.
“The directive came at a time when regulations were routinely being overridden,” the report says. “Providers were told to follow the Department of Health’s instructions.”
The 16-member task force was co-chaired by Hermes Fernandez, a lawyer, and lobbyist who served as an assistant counsel to Cuomo’s father, former Gov. Mario Cuomo.
According to the report, “it was unreasonable to leave the directive in place for so long” before Cuomo caved into public pressure.
It took him nearly seven weeks to finally reverse it on May 10, 2020, but the damage had already been done.
“Hospitalizations peaked on April 14. The hospital beds at the Javits Center were barely used, and the USNS Comfort sat empty in the Hudson River,” states the report.
If both of these facilities were empty and available, why weren’t they taken advantage of instead?
“The Comfort set sail from New York City on April 23. The March 25 directive could have been rescinded on or about the date the Comfort set sail, if not sooner,” the report continues.
Rejecting an earlier state Health Department report that said the mandate was not the “driver” of infections in nursing homes, the task force said evidence shows the mandate did result in some additional deaths.
The report confirms what many New York citizens directly affected by the order already knew: deaths of their loved ones could have been avoided.
Tracy Alvino, whose father died after contracting the coronavirus while recovering from neck surgery in a Long Island nursing home, agrees that the NYSBA report “confirms what we families already knew.”
“Cuomo lit the match and the nursing homes were the kerosene. It was a failure at every level. The nursing homes were unable to protect nursing home patients after accepting COVID patients,” Alvino said.
“If the March 25 order wasn’t issued, countless lives would have been saved. These were preventable deaths.”
Another daughter, Haydee Paybee, who lost her mother to COVID-19 in a Manhattan nursing home, said, “It’s great that the Bar Association highlighted the March 25 order.”
“Why would you place COVID patients with the most vulnerable people in nursing homes? It’s insane,” Paybee said.
“Cuomo is trying to let time pass so the issue goes away. The families will not make this issue go away.”