Uncertainty is still swirling over who is to blame for the more than 6,200 coronavirus related deaths in nursing homes in New York. 

Governor Andrew Cuomo has many answers to this, pointing to CDC guidance from the White House, the vulnerability of nursing home patients, and he has even blamed nursing home staff for bringing the virus in.

What You Need To Know

  • Nursing homes and how they've handled COVID-19 has been a major focus of the pandemic 
  • Who is to blame for the high infection rates and responses of nursing home remains a polarizing topic
  • An investigation has been launched by New York state into how nursing homes have handled COVID positive patients

“What all the data says is the reason you had infections in nursing homes were because the staff brought in the infection,” Governor Cuomo said during an interview on MSNBC Tuesday morning. “And you look at the communities that had the high infection rate overall, those were the communities that had nursing homes with a high infection rate, so it is that the staff got infected. They came to work and they brought in the infection.”

Although Gov. Cuomo issued an executive order on March 25 mandating that nursing homes admit COVID positive patients, the state says nursing homes were only supposed to admit patients if they could properly care for them. 

In an investigation launched by the state, the Department of Health and the Attorney General’s Office are currently looking at how nursing homes handled COVID positive patients.

According to a spokesperson for the Health Department, Jill Montag, the state currently has conducted more than 1,000 onsite Infection Control COVID-19 Focus Surveys at nursing homes and adult care facilities. This includes 548 at nursing homes and 488 at adult care facilities.

DOH would not give specifics on which facilities, if any, are facing fines, but did say “facilities that have been issued statements of deficiencies and submitted plans of correction that have been approved by the Department are posted here.”

Montag continued that “for specific information on the 548 investigations DOH has launched at nursing homes since March 1, 2020,” Spectrum News would need to submit a FOIL request.

However, Senator Jim Tedisco, along with lawmakers on both sides of the aisle, are calling for an open independent investigation into nursing home practices, separate from the AG’s Office and the Health Department. 

“I think they can be independent enough, but perception is reality,” Sen. Tedisco explained. “It would be wonderful to have them do an evaluation. But I think it would be really wonderful if an outside independent commission said here’s the way we see it and leave that up to the public to evaluate.”

Tedisco is currently sponsoring a bill that would create a bipartisan committee made up of health care professionals that would investigate the governor’s executive order that allowed for COVID positive patients to be admitted into nursing homes. 

“He’s got more angles than a geometry book, let me put it that way, in terms of giving excuses as to why this took place and we want to get the real answers in a bipartisan way,” Tedisco said.

The governor’s chief advisor, Rich Azzopardi, responded to this bill proposal and Sen. Tedisco’s comments, saying:

"‎Tedisco cares about getting his mug on the news more than actual facts," Azzopardi said. "Once again, S10 N.Y.C.R.R. Section 415.26 states that a nursing home shall accept & retain only those residents for whom it can provide adequate care – that's always been operative in New York, and is consistent with every federal guideline issued – and still in effect — no matter what they say now. More than a dozen other states adopted the same policies off the same guidelines — and yet republicans are hell-bent on politically targeting six Democratic states in an election year for them. No one’s dumb enough to fall for it.”

Congressional Republicans have also been looking into the governor’s nursing home policies during the pandemic