New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) said Sunday that “nobody” should be prosecuted for his state’s fatalities caused by the Wuhan coronavirus, including deaths in nursing homes.
Cuomo made the remark in response to a reporter’s question regarding the mounting death toll in his state’s nursing homes and the need for accountability.
“We lost 139 people yesterday in hospitals. Who is accountable for those 139 deaths? How do we get justice for those families who had 139 deaths? What is justice? Who can we prosecute for those 139 deaths? Nobody,” Cuomo replied.
“Despite whatever you do, because with all our progress as a society, we can’t keep everyone alive,” the governor said.
Cuomo has garnered blowback for a now-reversed March 25 directive regarding nursing homes, which reads: “No resident [of a nursing home] shall be denied re-admission or admission to the NH [nursing home] solely based on a confirmed or suspected diagnosis of COVID-19. NHs are prohibited from requiring a hospitalized resident who is determined medically stable to be tested for COVID-19 prior to admission or readmission.”
To date, at least 4,800 residents have died in New York nursing homes between March 1 and May 1, according to figures from Cuomo officials.
Cuomo faced criticism at a recent briefing for saying that providing masks and gowns to nursing homes is “not our job” because the homes are privately owned.
“It was such an insensitive thing to say,” said state Assemblyman Ron Kim, a Queens Democrat who noted that it wasn’t until just this past week that New York and neighboring states announced a plan to combine forces to buy protective gear and medical supplies for nursing homes.
“If we had focused on that early on,” he said, “we could have saved a lot of lives.”
Cuomo’s administration defended its response to the crisis, saying it has provided more than 10 million pieces of protective equipment to nursing homes and created a database of 95,000 workers who have helped out in hundreds of New York homes.
“This was an overwhelming situation for everyone,” said Jim Malatras, who serves on the governor’s COVID-19 task force. “There were deaths and it’s unfortunate. But it doesn’t mean we weren’t aggressive.”
One key criticism is that New York took weeks after the first known care home outbreaks to begin publicly reporting the number of deaths in individual homes — and still doesn’t report the number of cases. By the time New York began disclosing the deaths in the middle of last month, the state had several major outbreaks with at least 40 deaths each, most of which were a surprise to the surrounding communities and even some family members.
The AP contributed to this report.