New York's nursing home policies were based on guidelines from the federal Centers for Disase Control and Prevention, Gov. Andrew Cuomo said Wednesday, as he continued to defend his administration's response to how the COVID-19 pandemic tore through nursing and adult care facilities in the state.
State and federal lawmakers have called for investigations of how New York's nursing homes have been affected by coronavirus, which so far has been attributed to the deaths of more than 5,400 residents.
Cuomo on Wednesday indicated the push to do so was motivated in part by politics.
"Anyone who wants to ask why the state did that with COVID patients in nursing homes, it's because the state followed President Trump's CDC's guidance," Cuomo said. "So they should ask President Trump."
Nursing homes have been required by New York officials to take COVID-positive patients during the pandemic since a March 25 order.
Amid criticsm this month the state barred hospitals from discharging COVID-positive patients back to nursing homes, but the facilities are still required to take in COVID-positive residents.
And in April the state changed a guideline that allowed COVID-positive by asymptomatic staffers to continue working with residents who also have coronavirus -- also a CDC allowed provision -- after concerns were raised by local government officials.
Nursing homes have been granted liability protection by the state during the pandemic as well.
Cuomo on Wednesday said nursing homes should not take residents who they cannot handle.
"Any nursing home could just say, 'I can't handle a COVID patient in my facility,'" he said.
The state has started twice weekly testing of nursing home staff -- considered a daunting task by the facilities themselves. State officials have started to pair facilities with labs to handle the wave of tests.
Still, the criticism has ratcheted up. Assembly Health Committee Chairman Richard Gottfried, a Democrat, called for an indepednent investigation of the situation.
Republican Rep. Elise Stefanik has called for a federal investigation, sending out an email by her campaign to highlight the push.
"How has Governor Cuomo responded?" her campaign wrote in the email. "By smearing me and claiming I am pandering! It’s SHAMEFUL."
Cuomo, meanwhile, was publicly unpeturbed by the calls.
"If the federal government wants to start a probe, they can start a probe," Cuomo said of a nursing home investigation. "I don't welcome, not welcome. President Trump does what he wants to do."