First Gov. Andrew Cuomo blamed nursing homes for a widely-criticized directive from his Health Department barring the facilities from turning away coronavirus-positive people — now he’s pawning it off on the White House.
Critics should “ask President Trump” about it, the governor said Wednesday, arguing that the federal government actually cooked up the mandate — and that New York was just following Washington’s lead.
“Anyone who wants to ask, ‘Why did the state do that with COVID patients in nursing homes,’ it’s because the state followed President Trump’s CDC [Centers for Disease Control and Prevention] guidance,” Cuomo told reporters in Albany who pressed him on whether he had any regrets about the directive, which may have played a role in the deaths of thousands of nursing home residents.
“They should ask President Trump. I think that will stop the conversation,” he repeated.
Despite frequently jousting with the president throughout the pandemic, however, Cuomo betrayed no regrets on adopting that March 25 directive, even with well over 5,000 confirmed or suspected coronavirus deaths now reported in nursing homes.
“You have to remember the facts,” the governor said. “The CDC guidance said a nursing home cannot discriminate against a COVID patient.”
But the directive was also motivated by a desire to keep hospital beds free by shifting those with minor infections elsewhere, Cuomo continued — even if that meant putting them in nursing homes, among some of the most susceptible to the disease.
“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 … and you need that hospital bed for somebody who may die without it?” asked Cuomo.
Cuomo — who has maintained that he, the Department of Health and other state officials did “everything we could” for nursing homes — has announced a state Attorney General probe, not of the policy, but of the facilities.
A flood of state lawmakers, however, have in turn called for independent investigations into what role the March 25 directive played in the hellish nursing home death tolls.
He also reiterated Wednesday his insistence that nursing homes always had the right and responsibility to turn away patients for whom they were unprepared to care.
Asked point-blank if the state’s adherence to that policy fueled the nursing home death toll, Cuomo gave a flat denial — but said that if there is any blame, it lies with the facilities.
“No. Because you’d have to be saying the nursing homes were wrong in accepting COVID-positive patients,” he said.
The governor partly curbed the policy earlier this month by ruling that hospital patients must test negative for the coronavirus before they can be discharged to nursing homes.
Cuomo on Wednesday repeated his assertion that such bipartisan calls are “politics,” but said he was open to a review.
“I’m not resistant,” he said. “If the federal government wants to start a probe, then they can start a probe.
“It is irrelevant to me. … President Trump does what he wants to do. He doesn’t listen to a governor.”
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