Earlier today, I showed that New York state, the two other states that surround New York City, and nursing homes in the rest of America probably account for around two-thirds of the U.S. coronavirus death total. A focus on New York and nursing homes yields a common denominator: Andrew Cuomo.
Cuomo is governor of the state that accounts for about 37 percent of U.S. coronavirus deaths. This statistic by itself isn’t enough to condemn him. Nor are imperfections in the state’s response to the pandemic, although if you’re a Democrat, imperfections in the U.S. response are enough to condemn President Trump.
But consider this: Cuomo did not put New York on lockdown until March 20. This was three days after the Trump administration issued its guidelines for slowing the spread of the coronavirus. It was just a few days before states with much less to fear from the virus (e.g., Illinois, Ohio, and New Mexico) locked down. If the Trump administration was laggardly, as critics claim, Cuomo was worse.
Dr. Thomas R. Frieden, former head of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and former commissioner of the city’s Health Department, says that if the state and city had adopted widespread social-distancing measures a week or two earlier, including closing schools, stores, and restaurants, the estimated death toll from the outbreak might have been reduced by 50 to 80 percent. Instead, New York mandated those measures after localities in states including California and Washington had done so.
Cuomo was clueless about this virus even as late as the beginning of March. On March 2, he declared:
This isn’t our first rodeo. We are fully coordinated, and we are fully mobilized, and we are fully prepared to deal with the situation as it develops.
The governor assured New York residents that the general risk in the state “remains low.”
A few weeks later, Cuomo was frantically looking for ventilators and hysterically attacking the Trump administration for not supplying enough of them. Trump got Cuomo the ventilators he said were desperately needed, and Cuomo ended up with a large surplus of them.
In an article summarizing the shortcomings of the state’s response to the pandemic, as well as New York City’s, the New York Times concludes, “the initial efforts by New York officials to stem the outbreak were hampered by their own confused guidance, unheeded warnings, delayed decisions and political infighting.”
Cuomo’s most egregious error was his approach to nursing homes, which are, in a real sense, the epicenter of this pandemic. On March 25, after Cuomo issued the lockdown order, the New York State Department of Health ordered that nursing homes and rehabilitation centers admit and readmit patients sick with the coronavirus. The first sentence of the order stated:
No resident shall be denied re-admission or admission to the NH solely based on a confirmed or suspected diagnosis of COVID-19.
The criminal stupidity continued in the next sentence, which said that 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.”
Thus did Cuomo stand up for the right of those infected with the coronavirus to infect the population most vulnerable to this disease in a setting known to be extremely conducive to spreading infections.
Furthermore, according to Michael Goodwin, Team Cuomo issued the order without notice that it was coming. This left facilities with no time to establish protective procedures and protocols or to obtain protective equipment. “There was no planning, no thought process to give us time to identify buildings and establish units,” one industry executive complained.
Predictably, the consequences have been devastating. The 705-bed Isabella Geriatric Center in Manhattan has reported 98 resident deaths believed to be linked to COVID-19. It has had to store bodies in a refrigerator truck because overwhelmed funeral homes could not pick them up for days.
Similarly, a nursing facility in the Cobble Hill neighborhood of Brooklyn reported that at least 55 residents had died from the novel coronavirus. The CEO of that facility told state officials on April 9 he couldn’t handle the flood of infected patients and specifically asked about using the Javits and Comfort instead. Reportedly, the request was turned down, even though both facilities were caring for only a fraction of those they had the capacity to treat.
How has Cuomo defended his record? He initially denied knowing about the crucial order issued by his own Department of Health in connection with this pandemic, the biggest crisis he has had to deal with as governor.
He later took to defending the order, and claimed that it wasn’t “our job” to provide nursing homes with the items they needed to cope with the consequences of his order. Then, he vowed to investigate nursing homes and threatened to take away their licenses.
Anything to deflect attention from Cuomo’s own scandalous behavior and to cover his ass.
New York and nursing homes are the epicenter of this pandemic. Cuomo’s incompetence and stupidity are at the center of both disasters.