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28 Apr, 2020 23:27

One Covid-19 patient is like ‘fire through dry grass’, Cuomo says – but demands care homes take them in anyway

One Covid-19 patient is like ‘fire through dry grass’,  Cuomo says – but demands care homes take them in anyway

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo has acknowledged that a single Covid-19 patient in a nursing home could rip through the facility like “fire through dry grass.” His order that facilities treat all infected patients remains, however.

Admitting that nursing homes are “congregate facilit[ies] of vulnerable people,” Cuomo admitted during a press conference on Tuesday that if just a single infected person – whether a doctor, nurse, janitor, or “one anything” – walked into one of the state’s hard-hit elder care facilities, “it is fire through dry grass in that nursing home.”

“It is frightening. And if you have a loved one in a nursing home, yes, it is frightening,” Cuomo shuddered.

Over 3,500 nursing home patients have died since the coronavirus epidemic took root in New York. The highly-infectious virus is known to be particularly devastating among the elderly and those with pre-existing conditions and has killed over 10,000 in elder-care facilities across the US.

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However, Cuomo has refused to address or alter the executive order he issued late last month, forbidding care home operators from testing patients prior to their readmission to their facilities. No patient “determined medically stable” upon discharge from an acute care hospital may undergo testing for Covid-19 as a prerequisite for entry into a care home, never mind the judgment of staff.

The New York governor has defended his order despite protests from the facilities, even as staffers insist they don’t have adequate personal protective equipment (PPE) to deal with coronavirus patients and that the risk of infection threatens the fragile health of their existing charges.

“It’s not our job” to provide nursing homes with PPE, the governor said last week. He insisted that “we have given them thousands and thousands of PPE” and calling it the “primary responsibility” of nursing homes to outfit themselves with the equipment needed to fight the epidemic.

During his nine years as governor, Cuomo has slashed state healthcare budgets to the bone, and a recent controversial Medicare cut foisted hundreds of millions of dollars of costs from the state onto local governments.

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A similar requirement that nursing homes take Covid-19 patients in California was walked back after protest. While Cuomo has insisted on the no-testing requirement as a way to ease pressure on supposedly overloaded local hospitals, other facilities meant to ease that pressure – from the hospital ship USNS Comfort docked on the west side of Manhattan to the temporary hospital set up in Manhattan’s Javits Convention Center – have gone largely unused, as the city’s hospitals have proven sufficient to absorb the surge in hospitalizations.

Burdened by the order to take in recovering coronavirus patients, some of the state’s nursing homes have unwittingly become breeding grounds for the virus. NBC profiled one facility in Long Island where the epidemic exploded from a single case to 24 deaths in just a month. Only three of the dead were transfer patients, and one wasn’t even a patient but a staffer, the outlet reported.

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