Worst governor in America: Those nursing homes are just terrible, aren't they?

As Ed pointed out yesterday, the Worst Governor in America is sitting under a growing dogpile of both Republicans and members of his own party calling for his resignation in the wake of the nursing home fake numbers scandal. Those elected officials are even being joined by some of the members of the media who previously sang Andrew Cuomo’s praises as the “shadow president” who was managing the nation’s COVID response, with some suggesting he should have been Joe Biden’s VP pick. But Cuomo has remained largely silent for many days, not even mentioning the debacle during his few public briefings.

Now that’s changed. Governor Cuomo finally came out of hiding and he wanted everyone to know where the real blame should be assigned. First, he decided to claim that the entire thing is nothing more than a political attack by his enemies.

After that, he got around to addressing the issue of the high number of COVID deaths among nursing home residents by sending out the same aide who blew the whistle on him. Whose fault was that? It was the fault of the nursing homes, of course, because they’re really terrible. And no… I’m not even kidding here. (NY Post)

No New York nursing homes have lost their licenses yet despite widespread COVID-19 deaths at the facilities, aides to Gov. Andrew Cuomo recently said — griping that state laws are too soft and their hands are tied…

“I think a lot of these nursing homes, frankly, retrospectively, even prior to COVID have been getting away with a lot for a lot of years,” said [Mellissa] DeRosa during the behind-closed-doors virtual meeting, audio of which was reviewed by The Post.

DeRosa was responding to a call from state Assemblyman Ron Kim (D-Queens) — whose uncle is presumed to have died of the coronavirus in a nursing home — to hold “the bad actors accountable” and bring “retroactive justice” against facilities that mixed COVID-positive residents with others, allowing the virus to spread.

I don’t think anyone is suggesting that the nursing homes themselves are without blame. As soon as it became obvious that there were outbreaks of the virus in any senior facility, the administrators should have been moving to set up isolation wards and impose more rigorous disinfecting and screening protocols. Some homes did that while others clearly failed. I will also agree that having a cap of $10,000 per violation of the state’s health codes amounts to a slap on the wrist and doesn’t provide much incentive to do better.

With all of that said, however, Cuomo’s team is still completely ignoring the elephant in the room. There were nursing homes in New York at the start of the pandemic that were trying to refuse reentry to residents who tested positive for the novel coronavirus. It was Andrew Cuomo, acting under the extraordinary executive emergency powers granted to him by the state legisature that ordered all of the homes to accept returning residents and forbade them from requiring a negative COVID test as part of the process.

Cuomo also threatened non-compliant nursing homes with crippling fines or the loss of their license to operate. So while some of the nursing homes were clearly failing to take all possible precautions, even the ones who were trying to do the right thing were forbidden from doing so. There is one and only one person responsible for the subsequent deaths in those homes and that’s the person who picked up his pen and issued the orders.

The law granting Cuomo his emergency powers to manage the pandemic response is set to expire at the end of April. But there have been bipartisan statements coming out of the legislature saying that that’s too long to wait. The Assembly Minority Leader yesterday called for the legislature to return from their winter break immediately and consider a bill that would strip Cuomo of those powers immediately.

I’m not sure if that’s going to happen. While everyone is scrambling to be on “the right side of history” by condemning Cuomo over this scandal, there are probably quite a few of them breathing a sigh of relief at the same time. As long as the Governor is running things as a one-man show, whenever something goes wrong, the legislators can shrug their shoulders and point the finger at Cuomo. If they take the proposed action, they will become accountable. I’d be willing to bet that such a prospect will give quite a few of them pause.

David Strom 4:41 PM on September 26, 2022