Medical professionals criticize report that attempts to clean up Cuomo's nursing home disaster

Gov. Cuomo is currently taking a victory lap for his handling of the coronavirus in New York, but one decision made early in the shutdown continues to dog him. The state issued an order in March that made it mandatory for nursing homes to accept people with COVID-19 from hospitals. The idea was to prevent overcrowding at hospitals but the result may have been to help introduce the virus into nursing homes where a significant number of COVID deaths took place.

The criticism of the nursing home order has been circulating since May when Cuomo reversed the order. Last week Cuomo’s administration published a report attempting to clear his name once and for all. The report flatly claims “nursing home admissions from hospitals were not a driver of nursing home infections or fatalities.” Instead, the report blames the spread of the virus on health care workers and notes that 80% of the homes that took in COVID patients already had someone who had tested positive for the virus. But the report isn’t a scientific study and medical professionals contacted by the Associated Press said it looked more like a political document.

“I think they got a lot of political pushback and so their response was, ‘This isn’t a problem. Don’t worry about it,’” said Rupak Shivakoti, an epidemiologist at Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health.

“It seems like the Department of Health is trying to justify what was an untenable policy,” added Charlene Harrington, a professor emerita of nursing and sociology at the University of California at San Francisco.

Cuomo has claimed the attacks on his nursing home policy are just “ugly politics” and furthermore that the report vindicates him. But when the Associated Press asked experts to look at it, they noticed that it really sidesteps the central question: What impact did the order have on deaths in nursing homes?

Among the questions not answered: If 80% of the 310 nursing homes that took coronavirus patients already had cases before the order, what was the effect of the released patients on the other 62 homes?…

Among the holes in the study highlighted by University of Texas, Houston, epidemiologist Catherine Troisi was a lack of data on what happened at dozens of nursing homes that had no COVID-19 infections before those sick with the virus were sent to them.

“Would this get published in an academic journal? No,” Troisi said…

“They really need to own the fact that they made a mistake, that it was never right to send COVID patients into nursing homes and that people died because of it,” said Dr. Michael Wasserman, president of the California Association of Long Term Care Medicine.

Rep. Steve Scalise sent a letter to Cuomo criticizing the report as “half-baked data manipulations.” But a spokesman for Cuomo responded that Republicans were “denying science” and claimed “no one is buying it.” Could it be any more clear that Cuomo is trying to use a veneer of “science” to cloud the issue?

What today’s Associated Press report shows is that Cuomo’s spokesperson has it backwards. The report issued by the state isn’t “science” and actual medical professionals are the ones who are not buying what Cuomo is selling.