Cuomo Blames Federal Government for New York Nursing Home Deaths

New York governor Andrew Cuomo during a COVID-19 briefing, May 27, 2020 (Carlos Barria/Reuters)

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo pushed back against accusations that his nursing home coronavirus policies resulted in dozens of unnecessary deaths, instead blaming the federal government for not relaying information about the pandemic soon enough.

“Let’s look at the facts, right? Rather than the political rhetoric. Yes, we had more people die in nursing homes than anywhere else because we had more people die,” Cuomo said Monday on MSNBC. “Because the federal government missed the boat and never told us that this virus was coming from Europe and not from China.”

“The federal government and the CDC and all of them failed to handle this pandemic and warn this nation,” the Democratic governor continued. “So New York had more cases and more deaths and more deaths in nursing homes because that’s who the virus affects. It affects senior citizens. We know that. You look at any state, and they had a tremendous number of deaths in nursing homes.”

Cuomo has faced criticism for his policies aimed at fighting the virus in nursing homes, in particular his state regulation requiring nursing homes to accept recovering coronavirus patients and the prohibition against nursing homes testing returning patients for coronavirus. The state was also criticized for the lack of personal protective equipment for caretakers working in nursing homes.

In early May, New York announced 1,700 previously undisclosed suspected coronavirus deaths that occurred at nursing homes and adult care facilities. The report came after critics expressed skepticism about the official death tallies from coronavirus at nursing homes compared to rising death rates among elderly residents.

During January, February, and March — before the Trump administration temporarily banned travel from Europe over coronavirus fears — three million people brought the virus to New York from Europe unbeknownst to the federal government, Cuomo said, an apparent reference to his earlier statement that three million travelers from Europe passed through New York’s airports between December and March.

The Europe travel ban was implemented on March 13. Research later indicated that the coronavirus was seeded in New York and other East Coast states by travelers from Europe rather than from China, where the outbreak originated.

“It’s all a political charade, and it’s an ugly one, frankly, to talk about a number of deaths and suggest there was politics added,” Cuomo said of criticism about his nursing home policies, blaming Republicans for “playing politics.”

He touted New York’s coronavirus testing rates as well the state’s declining rate of hospitalizations and deaths. New York performed 57,000 tests on Sunday with less than one percent coming back positive.

Meanwhile, the state saw 10 deaths from the infection on Sunday, down from a high of 800 deaths in one day at the peak of the outbreak. Currently, the state has 100 hospitalizations for coronavirus, the lowest level since the pandemic’s height.

Cuomo also said he may release guidelines to handle a potential influx of visitors to New York from states with higher infection rates.

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