Cuomo brushes off criticism over nursing home deaths as ‘shiny object’

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo on Thursday again defended his administration’s now-scrapped nursing home policy that critics say contributed to thousands of coronavirus deaths, slamming the controversy as “a shiny object” and “pure politics.”

Cuomo’s comments came during an interview on New York’s WAMC-AM on Thursday. He was asked about the criticism and whether he acknowledged the policy was “on the wrong track.”

“No,” the Democratic governor responded. “The nursing home is an unfortunate situation on two levels. Number 1, people in nursing homes died. The nursing home [controversy] is pure politics, the Republicans in Congress, they think there’s a vulnerability.”

He added: “The nursing home thing it’s just all politics.”

Cuomo went on to say the criticism is just a way to deflect criticism from the Trump administration’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“They don’t want to talk about what the federal government did on COVID. So they want to attack the Democrats for nursing home deaths,” Cuomo said. “It’s the same M.O … just distract, you know, create a shiny object to take the attention off what they don’t want you to focus on.”

He added: “We had the worse case in the United States because the federal government had no idea what was going on. Where was the CDC? And where was the NIH? And where was everybody?”

While Trump has faced significant criticism for handling at the federal level, Cuomo has received scathing criticism for his early order requiring that nursing homes accept COVID-19 patients who had been released from hospitals, effectively placing them in the same facilities housing the demographic most vulnerable to the virus.

Cuomo has insisted that New York’s original nursing home policy was in line with a March 13 directive from the Trump administration’s Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) and the CDC that went out to all states on how to control nursing homes.

The guidelines say a nursing home “can accept a resident diagnosed with COVID-19 … as long as the facility can follow CDC guidance” — and require any newly admitted resident with a COVID-19 case to be placed in a designated COVID-19 care unit. The guidance also says “nursing homes should admit any individuals that they would normally admit to their facility, including individuals from hospitals where a case of COVID-19 was/is present.”

New York, among other states, said at the time that nursing homes cannot refuse to take patients from hospitals solely because they have the coronavirus. After mounting criticism that the policy put the most vulnerable people at risk and contributed to a high number of fatalities, New York reversed course May 10. Now hospitals can only send patients who have tested negative for COVID-19 to nursing homes.

While Cuomo claims the state was following CDC guidelines, Politifact rated that claim “mostly false” last week, arguing that the CDC didn’t force nursing homes’ hands the way that Cuomo did in his March 25 order.

Nursing care facilities, home to some of the most vulnerable citizens, have been coronavirus hotspots around the country. New York leads the nation with the most reported coronavirus nursing home deaths.

As of this week, official figures showed that more than 6,300 nursing home residents had died of the virus. However, that number does not include residents who died in hospitals or outside of nursing homes or long-term care facilities.

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