This is probably a case of closing the barn door after the horses are long gone, but the Governor of New York has finally reversed a previous policy and declared that patients must test negative for the novel coronavirus before being admitted into a nursing home. This is a complete about-face from the previous policy of state health director Howard Zucker who said that nursing homes could not turn away new patients even if they tested positive and/or were symptomatic. The Governor had supported the policy and made it official. The results up until now have been nothing short of disastrous. (NY Post)

Gov. Andrew Cuomo has finally admitted — tacitly and partially, anyway — the mistake that was state health chief Howard Zucker’s order that nursing homes must admit coronavirus-positive patients.

On Sunday, Cuomo announced a new regulation: Such patients must now test negative for the virus before hospitals can return them to nursing homes. Yet the gov also admitted that COVID-19 cases might still go to the facilities via other routes, and didn’t explicitly overrule Zucker’s March 25 mandate that homes must accept people despite their testing status — indeed, couldn’t even require a test pre-admission.

The gov’s people say that a home that simply can’t accommodate coronavirus patients never had to take them — though they are obliged to help those people find a place that will, with help available from the state if needed. That is: Zucker’s mandate was never more than a “don’t discriminate” rule.

No matter how much the Governor tries to spin this and describe the old policy as nothing more than a rule barring discrimination, his previous statements put the lie to that idea. He’s repeatedly complained that there must be “something wrong” with a nursing home that’s not equipped to deal with COVID-19 patients. It had also been implied on more than one occasion that nursing homes refusing to accept these patients would put their state-mandated licenses at risk.

As I mentioned above, the results of this policy have been deadly. Across the entire country, according to the New York Times, at least 28,300 residents and workers have died from the coronavirus at nursing homes and other long-term care facilities for older adults. That’s literally more than a third of the total deaths in the nation. And those figures are mirrored in New York City, which has produced the lion’s share of the deaths in the United States.

The Governor turned a blind eye to all of the reports explaining exactly why this policy was a disaster waiting to happen. Wasn’t it just common sense? Nursing homes are typically equipped for some medical care and they generally do have some doctors, nurses, and other healthcare workers onboard. But they specialize in the ailments of the elderly. They are not infectious disease care centers. And the residents of nursing homes are almost uniformly the elderly and those suffering from chronic, underlying medical issues already. Wasn’t it obvious that these would be just about the worst places to introduce infected individuals?

This was a hard lesson for New York’s elected officials to learn and the price we paid for it was incalculable. But if nothing else, perhaps it will open to door to a new approach when dealing with the unique issues affecting nursing homes in America. In today’s Morning Jolt, Jim Geraghty explores this critical topic and sees plenty of room for improvement.

These decisions are so spectacularly wrongheaded, so epically foolish, that those responsible deserve to be remembered forever. Think about how much ink has been spilled, telling us what a great job is being done by Cuomo, Whitmer, New Jersey governor Phil Murphy, California governor Gavin Newsom, and Pennsylvania governor Tom Wolf, and how lucky those states’ residents are to have such visionary and indefatigable leaders.

You will probably see someone citing these numbers and declaring that the death toll from this pandemic is the result of a handful of blue state governors. That is not quite accurate.

The major cable news networks and national newspapers have been falling all over themselves to shower praise on Andrew Cuomo, prompting many to suggest that perhaps he should be running for president. I don’t expect them to eat their words any time soon, but perhaps they could at least turn the volume down a few notches. Cuomo did a great job of communicating with the public and advocating for aid for his state through all of this. But as we’ve now seen, his performance was far from pitch-perfect. By forcing nursing homes to admit COVID-19 cases, he has almost certainly defined himself as one of the chief drivers of the worst death toll statistics coming out of this pandemic.