Cuomo on nursing home fiasco: Old people are going to die no matter what you do, you know

Via the Blaze, a comment like this coming from Trump would have set off a 24-hour media feeding frenzy.

Especially if Trump had ordered nursing homes to readmit residents who’d tested positive for coronavirus, all but guaranteeing a lethal outbreak among an especially vulnerable population.

Here’s the closest I’ve come to seeing a reasonable explanation for Cuomo’s original nursing-home policy and it’s not all that close:

The [original] order was driven by fears that hospitals would be swamped during the pandemic and that COVID-19 patients who could be at nursing homes would occupy much-needed beds. There was also concern that if nursing homes rejected elderly residents, some could be left with nowhere to go.

But the order overlooked that the coronavirus would present a new and distinct threat to nursing homes and their elderly residents. The mistake was odd, since Cuomo had issued an earlier directive banning all visitors from nursing homes because their patients were, he said, uniquely vulnerable during the pandemic.

It was understandable for Cuomo to worry during the early days of the pandemic that hospitalization rates would be much higher than they turned out to be. It was not understandable that his solution to that problem was to send senior citizens with the virus back into nursing homes, for cripes sake. Why didn’t they send infected seniors to some of New York City’s many thousands of unoccupied hotel rooms? Centralized quarantine with some sort of attending support staff is an idea that’s long overdue for hard-hit populations, especially for patients who live with people who are much more likely to die if they’re infected.

Cuomo’s using different strategies to try to put out this political fire before it really starts to burn. One is changing the reporting rules for nursing-home deaths to make the numbers look less garish than they do now. Another is to try to make it up to the surviving residents and staff by ordering frequent testing of all patients and employees at nursing homes — a load so enormous that New York’s main lab is now warning counties not to send them new tests, as they simply can’t cope. What good is testing nursing-home residents and staff if (a) it means other people can’t get tested and (b) the nursing-home tests are too backlogged to provide timely results? The answer, I assume, is that this is a political gesture by Cuomo more so than a meaningful solution to the threat in nursing homes. The goal isn’t to efficiently limit infections so much as to show the public that nursing homes are a priority for him now.

He’s under fire from New York Republicans like Elise Stefanik for his handling of infected nursing-home residents but he can ignore that as partisan politics. The bigger problem for him is that some state Democrats have also begun to demand an independent probe into the matter, with one Democratic assemblyman calling the order in March by Cuomo’s Department of Health to require readmitting infected nursing-home residents “probably the deadliest decision ever made in New York State history.” That’s a fair cop: More than 5,000 residents of state nursing homes have died since the pandemic began, a toll higher than the total number of deaths in all but three U.S. states (New York included, of course).

In lieu of an exit question, read this post from Saturday if you missed it. The myth of Cuomo as some master crisis manager is eroding bit by bit. Long way to go before he feels any effect, though: His job approval on handling the pandemic as of two weeks ago was … 81/18.