Report: Cuomo Covid Order Increased Nursing Home Deaths

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A new report concluded that a controversial March 2020 order by Governor Andrew Cuomo caused additional nursing home resident deaths from Covid-19.

A report published by the New York State Bar Association Task Force on Nursing Homes and Long-Term Care, obtained and described by the New York Post, found that a controversial order by Governor Andrew Cuomo resulted in additional nursing home deaths from Covid-19. The March 2020 order required nursing homes to admit patients with Covid-19, and Cuomo has asserted in the past that it did not cause any increase in nursing home resident deaths.

According to the report, the task force found that while the directive did not cause 15,000 deaths as has been claimed, there are nonetheless “credible reviews that suggest that the directive, for the approximately six weeks that it was in effect, did lead to some number of additional deaths.” The report goes on to state that the additional deaths do not mean the directive “was issued in error,” but argues that it was “unreasonable” for state health authorities to leave the directive in place as long as it did. “Hospitalizations peaked on April 14th,” the task force wrote. “The hospital beds at the Javits Center were barely used, and the USNS Comfort sat empty in the Hudson River. The Comfort set sail from New York City on April 23rd. The March 25th directive could have been rescinded on or about the date the Comfort set sail, if not sooner.”

The report also criticizes the “absoluteness” of the directive. “Under the applicable regulations, a nursing home is to accept only individuals the nursing home is able to care for properly,” the task force noted. “That, in essence, is the promise every nursing home makes to residents and their families – we admit you because we can properly care for you. The directive did not explicitly override the regulation, but it was commonly read as though it did. The directive came at a time when regulations were routinely being overridden.” The task force pointed out that “the language of the directive was absolute” and that it put nursing homes “on the wrong footing”

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The report argues that while the directive was not itself unreasonable, its duration and absolute language were.

While it was not unreasonable to view nursing home beds as a means of extending hospital capacity when hospitals were overwhelmed, the report argues, what was unreasonable was the New York state government’s “failure to recognize that nursing homes were just as much in need of substantial help as general hospitals.” It points out that at the time, nursing homes were suffering PPE shortages, and that Governor Cuomo went so far as to criticize suggestions that the state should extend aid to nursing home facilities. “Nursing homes also could have used assistance in putting together infection control sufficient to meet the virus,” the report suggests, “if that were even possible in late March 2020.”

More information on the New York State Bar Association Task Force on Nursing Homes and Long-Term Care is available via the New York Post and the report itself.

The attorneys at the Law Offices of Thomas L. Gallivan, PLLC work diligently to protect the rights of nursing home residents.  Please contact us to discuss in the event you have a potential case involving neglect or abuse.

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