In November, I wrote about the horrendous consequences of the official directive issued March 25, 2020 by senior New York State officials that required nursing homes to admit residents regardless of their COVID-19 status. In fact, the directive prohibited testing residents prior to admission:
No resident shall be denied re-admission or admission to the NH solely based on a confirmed or suspected diagnosis of COVID-19. NHs are prohibited from requiring a hospitalized resident who is determined medically stable to be tested for COVID-19 prior to admission or readmission. [underline in original].
Despite public outrage and strong media criticism, their order remained in effect for a catastrophic 46 days, resulting in thousands of unnecessary deaths. In my earlier article, I pointed out that there is no plausible justification for the order. New York officials obviously knew what they were doing — they signed it.
The excuse they offered — that it was an effort to triage bed availability in New York hospitals (i.e. to get patients recovering from COVID out of the hospital and back to their nursing homes quickly to make room for new patients) — was and is completely untenable. There were thousands of empty beds in makeshift hospitals and in the USS Comfort (a Navy hospital ship) that were never used and could have served as temporary shelter for infected patients until they were tested as COVID-negative.
As I pointed out in November, there is no such thing as “prophylactic” triage. Triage is only used in dire emergency circumstances when medical resources are actually (not potentially) overwhelmed. Triage is never anticipatory — patients are never deliberately let suffer or die because of what might happen in the future. In fact, New York medical facilities, although stressed by the epidemic, were never overwhelmed and were never in a condition that required triage of any sort.
It has been hard to understand the motives for a directive that doomed so many frail seniors. The directive could only have had the effect of spreading the virus to nursing home residents. Motives may include simple malice, but that’s hard to understand. A desire to cut costs during a foreseeable post-COVID economic crisis could more plausibly have played a role. Nursing home patients are very expensive to care for and much of that expense is borne by the state.
But now there is strong evidence for another motive, one which might at first have seemed far-fetched: deliberate exacerbation of the epidemic for political reasons in an election year.
It has recently come out — accidentally, it seems — in a video conference call among Democratic Party lawmakers that the Cuomo administration in New York deliberately undercounted the number of nursing home deaths to the federal government:
The stunning admission of a coverup was made by secretary to the governor Melissa DeRosa during a video conference call with state Democratic leaders in which she said the Cuomo administration had rebuffed a legislative request for the tally in August because “right around the same time, [then-President Donald Trump] turns this into a giant political football,” according to an audio recording of the two-hour-plus meeting.
“He starts tweeting that we killed everyone in nursing homes,” DeRosa said. “He starts going after [New Jersey Gov. Phil] Murphy, starts going after [California Gov. Gavin] Newsom, starts going after [Michigan Gov.] Gretchen Whitmer.”
In addition to attacking Cuomo’s fellow Democratic governors, DeRosa said, Trump “directs the Department of Justice to do an investigation into us.”Bernadette Hogan, Carl Campanile and Bruce Golding, “Cuomo aide Melissa DeRosa admits they hid nursing home data so feds wouldn’t find out” at New York Post (February 11, 2021)
In the wake of thousands of avoidable deaths, some listening lawmakers found DeRosa’s crass political explanation hard to accept. Congressman Kim, whose uncle is considered to have died of COVID in a nursing home said, “It’s not enough how contrite they are with us,” he said. “They need to show that to the public and the families — and they haven’t done that.”
As the New York attorney general revealed in a scathing recent report, Cuomo and his officials had been playing games with numbers to hide the true results of their directive:
New York Attorney General Letitia James alleged in a damning report from last month that Gov. Cuomo’s administration drastically undercounted nursing home deaths in the state. Health Commissioner Howard Zucker released figures showing that as of Wednesday, the total number of nursing home deaths in the state was 13,297. That number jumps to 15,049 when assisted living/adult care facilities are factored in.Bernadette Hogan, Carl Campanile and Bruce Golding, “Cuomo aide Melissa DeRosa admits they hid nursing home data so feds wouldn’t find out” at New York Post (February 11, 2021)
The DOH had previously publicly acknowledged only 8,711 deaths in N.Y. nursing homes, according to the Post.
How did the New York health officials conceal the true number of nursing home deaths from the feds? They used a unique system for attributing deaths. In most states, COVID-19 deaths were recorded by where the infection was acquired, which is, of course, the standard way of tracking epidemics. In New York, officials used a bizarre and scientifically misleading method, in which deaths were recorded only by the location in which the patient died, not where the patient had acquired the infection.
So what happened when a New York nursing home resident caught COVID from, say, a COVID positive resident who was admitted under the New York DOH directive? When the newly infected resident was brought to an emergency room and died, the COVID death would be attributed to the emergency room, not to the nursing home where the infection was acquired. This statistical coverup was obviously intended to downplay nursing home deaths from COVID and thus conceal the inevitable effect of the DOH directive.
DeRosa begged for ‘understanding” of the dishonesty and its outcome, subtly blaming the federal government:
Gov. Cuomo and other Democrat governors forced nursing homes to accept COVID patients back into their facilities despite the likelihood that those patients would still be contagious and would spread the virus to the other residents.
In an attempt to rationalize the Cuomo regime’s duplicitous behavior, DeRosa told the lawmakers that they felt intimidated after Trump directed “the Department of Justice to do an investigation into us.”
“Basically, we froze,” she explained. “Because then we were in a position where we weren’t sure if what we were going to give to the Department of Justice, or what we give to you guys, what we start saying, was going to be used against us while we weren’t sure if there was going to be an investigation.”
DeRosa added: “That played a very large role into this.”Debra Heine, “Cuomo Aide Admits They Hid Real Number of COVID Nursing Home Deaths from Legislators Because Trump DOJ Was Investigating” at Tennessee Star
Such deliberate concealment of evidence by New York officials is what prosecutors would call evidence for “consciousness of guilt.” New York congresswoman Elise Stefanik has called for the state and federal prosecution of New York officials involved in this “massive curruption and coverup”:
I have said from the beginning that this is more than a nursing home scandal, this is a massive corruption and coverup scandal at the highest level of New York State Government implicating the Governor, the Secretary to the Governor, the New York State Health Commissioner and the Governor’s staff.Elise Stefanik, “My Statement on the bombshell @nypost reporting on Cuomo’s cover-up” at Twitter
Obviously, no one going to jail for these — for all practical purposes —thousands of homicides or the obstruction of justice that followed — unless New York’s government finds a hapless administrator to take the fall. There is little justice in our world, and, increasingly, little justice in our country.
But the audacity of this deliberate spread of a deadly virus to a defenseless population by health officials is a milestone in the decline of our culture. It is not, I fear, the end of the government’s efforts to cull vulnerable citizens from our midst. Considering the legal slaughter of tens of millions of unborn children and the passage of physician-assisted suicide laws in several states, it seems that deliberate exposure of thousands of elderly citizens to a deadly virus for crass political motives is just another incident in our culture of death.
Americans bear some real responsibility for this episode because it was our elected officials and their appointees who did this. And it is we who will make a choice as to whether they are allowed to get away with it.
Note 1: Curiously, Cuomo received an Emmy Award for “effective use of television during the pandemic” We are told that the Academy lauded him because “People around the world tuned in to find out what was going on, and ‘New York tough’ became a symbol of the determination to fight back.” Cuomo also published a book about his response to COVID-19, American Crisis: Leadership Lessons from the COVID-19 Pandemic (October 2020). The top comments, however, are mostly scathing.
Note 2: The photo of Andrew Cuomo, taken in 2017, is by Patrick Cashin of the Metropolitan Transit authority (CC BY 2.0)
You may also wish to read:
Wh did New York State issue a policy that killed elderly patients during the pandemic? For all practical purposes, the government directive was essentially an order to spread COVID to people in nursing homes.
This is the worst thing medical authorities have done in the US since the Tuskegee scandal, when Black Americans were not given penicillin to treat disease. (Michael Egnor)