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Order Forcing Nursing Homes to Take Covid Patients Scrubbed from N.Y. State Website

Ambulances lined up at the emergency entrance outside Mount Sinai Hospital during the coronavirus outbreak in New York City, April 13, 2020 (Mike Segar/Reuters)

The New York Department of Health has apparently deleted a March order issued by Governor Andrew Cuomo that forced nursing homes to admit Covid-positive residents.

The order, which was implemented on March 25, stated that “no resident shall be denied re-admission or admission to a nursing home solely based on a confirmed or suspected diagnosis of COVID-19,” and also prohibited nursing homes from requiring testing prior to admission or readmission. But the order is no longer visible on the state’s website.

Other outdated guidelines, including a February order stating “there is no need to cancel school or social events, and there is no need for students or school staff to wear surgical masks at school,” remain active on the site.

The New York Department of Health and Cuomo’s office did not respond to requests for comment as to why the order was deleted.

New York leads the country with over 5,000 nursing home deaths due to coronavirus, and earlier this month admitted to quietly changing its criteria to count only those cases in which the individual died at the nursing home, rather than at the hospital. News of the policy has resulted in calls for an investigation from conservative lawmakers.

Cuomo, who said in April that he was not aware of his state’s own policy, reversed it earlier this month. “We’re just not going to send a person who is positive to a nursing home after hospital visit. Period. If there’s any issue, the resident must be referred to the department of health which will find alternative care,” he announced on May 10.

After coming under fire for the initial directive, Cuomo defended his actions by deflecting criticism to the Trump administration.

“New York followed the president’s agencies’ guidance,” Cuomo said Saturday at his press conference. “What New York did was follow what the Republican Administration said to do. That’s not my attempt to politicize it. It’s my attempt to depoliticize it. So don’t criticize the state for following the president’s policy.”

The governor’s office pointed to a March 13 directive to the states from the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) and Centers from Disease Control and Prevention (CDC): “Nursing homes should admit any individuals that they would normally admit to their facility, including individuals from hospitals where a case of COVID-19 was/is present,” it states. But the document also explains that a nursing home should only accept a Covid-positive patient “as long as the facility can follow CDC guidance for Transmission-Based Precautions.”

Florida, which adopted a stance opposite to New York’s by keeping coronavirus patients out of nursing homes, has suffered only a fraction of the deaths.

“It was clear to me that there were much higher standards related to infection control being outlined by the federal CDC that well exceeded what our nursing homes traditionally have been expected to adhere to,” Mary Mayhew, secretary of Florida’s Agency for Healthcare Administration, told National Review. “So we never had false expectations.”

Send a tip to the news team at NR.

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