New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo said that nursing homes “never needed” to accept Covid-positive patients from hospitals in the state due to a shortage of hospital beds.
During a press call Wednesday, Finger Lakes News Radio asked Cuomo about his administration’s advisory in late March requiring that nursing homes accept the readmission of patients from hospitals, even if they were positive for Covid-19.
The governor’s office has repeatedly said the advisory was based on federal guidance, which prohibited discrimination based on a coronavirus diagnosis. The state’s Department of Health told CNN, “Residents were admitted to nursing homes during that time not as an overflow facility, but because that’s where they live.”
Cuomo said that the advisory was a precaution if hospitals became overwhelmed — calling it an “anticipatory rule” — which he said didn’t happen.
“We never needed nursing home beds because we always had hospital beds,” Cuomo told Finger Lakes News. “So it just never happened in New York where we needed to say to a nursing home, ‘We need you to take this person even though they’re Covid-positive.’ It never happened.”
Facts First: Cuomo’s assertion that “it never happened” is false. According to a report from the New York State Department of Health, “6,326 COVID-positive residents were admitted to [nursing home] facilities” following Cuomo’s mandate that nursing homes accept the readmission of Covid-positive patients from hospitals. Whether or not this was “needed,” it did in fact happen.
Cuomo’s senior adviser Rich Azzarpodi replied Thursday after publication and took issue with this determination, saying that the governor was specifically referencing the hospital bed shortage. “The governor was crystal clear, he was saying that what did not materialize was the crunch for hospital beds, that every projection especially the federal governments projections predicted was going to happen. That’s what he said never happened. Separately the law has always been that nursing homes could only accept residents that they could adequately care for. None of that has changed.”
On March 25, the state’s Health Department issued an advisory requiring nursing homes to accept “the expedited receipt of residents returning from hospitals” if the patients were deemed medically stable.
“No resident shall be denied re-admission or admission to the [nursing home] solely based on a confirmed or suspected diagnosis of COVID-19,” the advisory stated. “[Nursing homes] are prohibited from requiring a hospitalized resident who is determined medically stable to be tested for COVID-19 prior to admission or readmission.”
This mandate received a great deal of criticism, and Cuomo issued an executive order changing the advisory on May 10 by requiring hospitals to be sure patients tested negative before discharging them to nursing homes.
On May 21 The Associated Press reported, “More than 4,500 recovering coronavirus patients were sent to New York’s already vulnerable nursing homes” under the state’s advisory.
In July, the state’s Health Department released a report that found “approximately 6,326 COVID-positive residents were admitted to facilities between March 25, 2020 and May 8, 2020.”
There has been a lot of debate around how and if this advisory contributed to the significant coronavirus death toll seen throughout New York nursing homes. The state Health Department’s July report argued that the advisory “could not be a driver of nursing home infections or fatalities,” though many experts disagree, noting that the report’s conclusion is based on the timing of cases and mortality, not, as the report acknowledges, on contact tracing of patients, staff or family members.
CORRECTION: This headline has been updated to correct an earlier version that mischaracterized Gov. Cuomo’s comments about New York nursing homes taking in Covid-positive patients. The story has been updated to include comment from the governor’s office.