One of the most at-risk populations when it comes to the Wuhan coronavirus are those in nursing homes. The first place we really became aware of the virus in this country was at a nursing home in the state of Washington, The Life Center in Kirkland, where there were 3 deaths from the virus before March 11. Since then, at least 24 others have died there.
Governments seem to have grasped that the elderly are most at risk from the virus.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo even named his stay-at-home order after his own mother, Matilda Cuomo, because he wanted to emphasize the importance of protecting the elderly. “My mother is not expendable and your mother is not expendable and our brothers and sisters are not expendable,” he said in March.
So one would think Cuomo would understand that a nursing home population would be one that you would most want to protect.
But in fact, his administration issued an order requiring nursing homes to admit and readmit people who tested positive for the virus. According to the New York Post, Gov. Cuomo claimed he didn’t know about the policy earlier this week. But his Health Commissioner Howard Zucker confirmed it. “If you are positive, you should be admitted back to a nursing home,” he said. “The necessary precautions will be taken to protect the other residents there.”
The state concedes that 3,448 residents of nursing homes or adult-care facilities are known to have died from the coronavirus, or nearly 25 percent of all deaths in New York. More than 2,000 of the total are in the five boroughs, and officials acknowledge that the real numbers are almost certainly higher. [….]
The COVID-19 readmission policy was adopted March 25 and was contained in a Health Department directive that says, “No resident shall be denied readmission or admission to the [nursing home] solely based on a confirmed or suspected diagnosis of COVID-19,” Newsday reported last month.
The problem was that not only did they order the people back into the nursing homes but then the nursing homes didn’t have the adequate PPE to be able to deal with that, according to people like Assemblyman Ron Kim (D-Queens), who didn’t accept Zucker’s claims that the “necessary precautions” were being taken.
“It’s either he’s lying or they have absolutely no idea what’s going on on the ground,” Kim said.
“The staff, the families, everyone is telling me there’s completely a lack of support and they don’t have the necessary PPE [personal protective equipment] to be safe.”
Arline Mullin wondered why people haven’t been asking questions about this. She wrote a letter and did an interview with Michael Goodwin of the New York Post.
“I am wondering who will hold Gov. Cuomo accountable for the deaths of so many older people due to his reckless decision to place covid19 patients in nursing and rehabilitation homes,” the letter began. “I am writing as a daughter who lost her beautiful 88 year old mother who was receiving physical therapy at one such facility.” [….]
For her part, Arlene Mullin is not satisfied. In an interview Tuesday, the Long Island educator said she has sent four emails to Cuomo’s office on the issue but has never received a response.
“I get it, it’s a crisis,” she said of the pandemic. “But I really want to know why the governor would put that population at such risk.”
Her mom, Diana Mongiello, a great-grandmother, was in a rehab center that had accepted coronavirus patients when she developed a fever on April 5. At 8 a.m. the next day, a nursed called to say Mongiello tested positive. Five hours later, she was pronounced dead.
On top of all that, on Wednesday, when Gov. Cuomo mocked people desperate to work to be able to feed their families and he told them to get jobs as “essential workers,” he made a comment about nursing homes that got less attention. He said that it wasn’t the state government’s responsibility to provide PPE for nursing homes, although it was their responsibility to check on compliance with laws in the use of such equipment.
Technically, that’s legally true. Just like technically, it isn’t really the federal government’s responsibility to provide things to New York which they should have had themselves. But despite that, President Donald Trump covered New York’s back as much as he could. Imagine if Trump had said it wasn’t his responsibility. But when you’ve actually ordered nursing homes to take people who are positive and they don’t have the ability to refuse or send them to the hospital, then saying you have no responsibility for the result is more than a little callous, when you’re the reason they’re in the mess they are in.
On Thursday, Cuomo tried to clean it up, saying the state would be checking on compliance in the nursing homes to see if they are wearing PPE and isolating patients. But at this point, with hospitalizations leveling off, why are still you requiring homes that are not as prepared or as knowledgeable as hospitals to assume that burden and danger? It makes no sense.