Cuomo Called This the ‘Optimum Feeding Ground’ for Virus, Forced in Thousands of Infected Anyway

A policy enacted by Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s administration in March injected more than 4,500 recovering coronavirus patients into New York state nursing homes, according to a new report.

“We’ve tried everything to keep it out of a nursing home, but it’s virtually impossible,” Gov. Andrew Cuomo told reporters during an April 22 news briefing.

“Now is not the best time to put your mother in a nursing home. That is a fact.”

Three days earlier, on April 19, Cuomo called nursing homes “the optimum feeding ground for this virus.”

But at the policy level, there was a disconnect between what Cuomo was saying and what his administration was doing.

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On March 25, the New York State Department of Health issued a directive that required nursing homes to accept recovering coronavirus patients, according to The Associated Press.

Overall, more than 4,500 such patients were sent to nursing homes under the directive, the AP reported Friday, though the Health Department would not release that data to the public.

Critics say that was a major factor in the 5,800 nursing home deaths in the state from the coronavirus, a figure that leads the nation.

“It was the single dumbest decision anyone could make if they wanted to kill people,” Daniel Arbeeny told the AP.

Do you think this directive was responsible for thousands of deaths?

After the edict came down, Arbeeny removed his 88-year-old father from a Brooklyn nursing home where upward of 50 people have died. His father eventually passed away form the virus at home.

“This isn’t rocket science,” Arbeeny said. “We knew the most vulnerable — the elderly and compromised — are in nursing homes and rehab centers.”

“The way this has been handled by the state is totally irresponsible, negligent and stupid,” Elaine Mazzotta, a nurse whose mother died in a nursing home of suspected COVID-19, told the AP earlier this month. “They knew better. They shouldn’t have sent these people into nursing homes.”

One critic said the state’s refusal to admit its mistake publicly contributed to the disaster.

“They should have announced to the public: ‘We have a problem in nursing homes. We’re going to help them, but you need to know where it is,’” said Betsy McCaughey, a former Republican lieutenant governor of the state who now heads the Committee to Reduce Infection Deaths.

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“Instead, they took the opposite tack: They hid it.”

“It infected a great number of people in nursing homes who had no business getting infected, including short-term residents who were there for rehabilitation after surgeries,” said John Dalli, a New York lawyer who focuses on nursing home cases.

The state said it is still working on its own count of how many infected patients were jammed into nursing homes.

In response to the AP tally, the Health Department said it “can’t comment on data we haven’t had a chance to review, particularly while we’re still validating our own comprehensive survey of nursing homes admission and re-admission data in the middle of responding to this global pandemic.”

Cuomo has said nursing homes were never forced to take anyone.

“Any nursing home could just say, ‘I can’t handle a COVID person in my facility,’” he told reporters Wednesday.

The order, however, had said that “no resident shall be denied re-admission or admission to the [nursing home] solely based” on COVID-19 status

The directive “put staff and residents at great risk,” said Stuart Almer, the CEO of Gurwin Jewish, a Long Island nursing home that took in 58 COVID-19 patients and saw 47 residents die from the disease.

“We can’t draw a straight line from bringing in someone positive to someone catching the disease, but we’re talking about elderly, fragile and vulnerable residents,” he told the AP.

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