The Journal Gazette
 
 
Tuesday, July 07, 2020 1:00 am

NY says 6,300 sent to facilities

Associated Press

NEW YORK – New York hospitals released more than 6,300 recovering coronavirus patients into nursing homes during the height of the pandemic under a now-scrapped policy, state officials said Monday, but they argued it was not to blame for one of the nation's highest nursing home death tolls.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo's administration, which has taken intense criticism over the policy, instead contended the virus' rampant spread through the state's nursing homes was propelled by more than 20,000 infected home staffers, many of whom kept going to work unaware they had the virus in March and April. Another 17,500 workers were infected through early June.

“Facts matter. And those are the facts,” state Health Commissioner Dr. Howard Zucker said in a news conference.

New York's report came more than a month after The Associated Press did its own count finding that hospitals around the state released more than 4,500 recovering coronavirus patients to nursing homes under a March 25 Health Department directive that required nursing homes to take recovering coronavirus patients.

The directive was intended to help free up hospital beds for the sickest patients as cases surged. But several relatives, patient advocates and nursing administrators who spoke to the AP at the time blamed the policy for helping to spread the virus among the state's most fragile residents. To date, more than 6,400 deaths have been linked to the coronavirus in New York's nursing home and long-term care-facilities.

Cuomo, a Democrat, reversed the directive under pressure on May 10, but he has argued for weeks that infected home workers, not released COVID-19 patients, were to blame for a coronavirus spread through nursing homes that he compared to “fire through dry grass.”

He noted Monday that it wasn't well understood early on how readily the virus could be spread by people without symptoms.

“Nobody knew what they were talking about for a long time. That's the bottom line here,” he told reporters in New York.

The health commissioner said there was “no reason to place blame” on anyone.

“If you were to place blame, I would blame coronavirus,” Zucker said.

The state's findings didn't deter Republicans from seeking investigations of the state's nursing home deaths. And some nursing home groups remain convinced the March 25 order was a bad idea.

“Bringing in even one instance of COVID to a nursing home is in no one's best interest,” said Stephen Hanse, who runs a nursing home association called the New York State Health Facilities Association and the New York State Center for Assisted Living.


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