Gov. Cuomo is still failing New York’s nursing homes
On June 3, my nursing home reached a milestone: Our last known COVID-19 patient was released from quarantine, marking, we hope, the end of the crisis that overtook us in March.
But we aren’t celebrating. The state Department of Health soon arrived to conduct testing of all of our residents; now, almost a week later, we are still waiting for the test results — another stunning example of the state’s ongoing neglect of nursing homes.
Gov. Cuomo is happy to show off the state’s declining infection, death and hospitalization rates. But he has never presented comparable data on nursing-home infection rates, even though the DOH has collected these statistics since the beginning of the pandemic.
If nursing-home infection rates are declining like the others, why is there such a rush to test everybody this late in the game? And if it is indeed important to do so, then why the delay in reporting results?
The Empire State was tragically unprepared for the disaster. Contrary to federal guidelines, the state didn’t involve nursing homes in strategic pandemic planning. And despite the knowledge that the nation’s first COVID-19 outbreak occurred in such a facility, Cuomo missed the opportunity to engage the industry when cases started breaking out.
To this day, the governor communicates with nursing homes by means of one-way, reactive and often threatening mandates, while consistently relegating our needs to last place. Early on, personal protective equipment was prioritized to the hospitals, leaving many homes without the ability to fully protect their staff and residents; at the peak of the pandemic, many lacked adequate testing materials.
Facilities were stunned by the infamous, now-retracted March 25 mandate that they must admit actively ill COVID-19 patients. Forced to change overnight into mini ICUs, nursing homes performed remarkably well, considering their limited resources.
The DOH didn’t collect statistics on nursing-home COVID-19 mortalities until mid-April, after the governor was pressured for the information. He then required the facilities to conduct a frenzied review of all deaths from the beginning of March over the course of a single weekend afternoon.