New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D-NY) on Wednesday attempted to shift blame for his state’s nursing home coronavirus deaths on to President Trump, saying he was merely following guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
Cuomo has received harsh criticism 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.”
This week, Rep. Elise Stefanik (R-NY) called for a federal investigation into Cuomo and his administration over the handling of this nursing home policy.
As of Tuesday, over 5,800 nursing home and adult care facility residents have died from the illness.
A partial transcript is as follows:
REPORTER #1: There is a call for a federal probe into how the state handled the nursing home situation, specifically the March executive order allowing COVID-positive patients back into the nursing homes. In reflecting on those comments, I was wondering why was that executive order made at the time?
GOV. ANDREW CUOMO: Look, this is a political season, I get it. I have refrained from politics. I’m not going to get into the political back and forth, but anyone who wants to ask why did the state do that with COVID patients and nursing home, it’s because the state followed President Trump’s CDC guidance. So they should ask President Trump. I think that will stop the conversation.
QUESTION: Are you fudging the numbers? Because that’s the accusation that you’re facing, that you are changing the numbers to make—
GOV. CUOMO: —Let’s do one at a time. Your first point, why did the state do that? Because the state followed president Trump’s CDC guidance, okay? That’s that answer. No numbers were changed.
REPORTER #2: But governor, you’ve shown a willingness to thwart president Trump at other times. Why on that March 25th memo did you not thwart him? Why did you follow CDC guidance? And do you regret that?
GOV. CUOMO: No, not at all.
REPORTER #2: I mean, considering the death toll?
GOV. CUOMO: Well, you have to remember the facts. I know you’re the New York Times, but facts are still facts, right? Even at the Times, okay? Here are the facts. The CDC guidance said a nursing home cannot discriminate against the COVID patient because, at that time, the issue was hospital capacity, right? Remember the hospital capacity? And we were dramatically increasing hospital capacity.
If a person doesn’t need an urgent care bed in a hospital because they are not urgently ill and they have—it can take two weeks to test negative when you’re no longer urgently ill, is the best use of a hospital bed to have somebody sit there for two weeks in a hospital bed when they don’t need the hospital bed because they are not urgently ill, they’re just waiting to test negative on the antibody test, which can take two weeks, and you need that hospital bed for somebody, who may die without it. The second fact, a nursing home cannot accept a patient who they are not qualified to handle.
For a COVID patient, a nursing home must say “I can quarantine, I can isolate, I have the right staff, I have the right PPE,” or else that nursing home should not take that patient and, the third point, we always had alternative beds. Any nursing home that says “I can’t take that COVID patient,” for whatever reason, I don’t even care what the reason is, “I don’t have the staff, I don’t have the time, I’m overstressed, I don’t have the PPE,” we always have alternative beds. We have had alternative beds all throughout this. We never got to a place where we were bumping up against the capacity. So any nursing home could just say, “I can’t handle a COVID person in my facility.”