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theodore M I R A L D I mpa ... editor, publisher, writer. katherine molé mfa ... art director
Sunday, April 26, 2020
State Lacked COMMON SENSE in Nursing Homes Coronavirus Approach
A patient is treated outside of Cobble Hill Health Center, in Brooklyn, New York. Richard Harbus Michael Goodwin
Start with the knowledge Albany had for months — that the coronavirus was extra-lethal for the elderly. Study after study showed death rates climbed with age, especially among those with serious, pre-existing health issues. That describes the entire population in most nursing homes.
Then look at the now-infamous March 25 directive from the New York State Department of Health that orders those homes and rehabilitation centers to admit and readmit patients sick with the coronavirus. The devil comes in the first sentence of the fifth paragraph:
“No resident shall be denied re-admission or admission to the NH solely based on a confirmed or suspected diagnosis of COVID-19.”
It reads like a legal warning against discrimination — because that’s what it is. The order effectively makes patients contaminated with a highly contagious disease a protected class, akin to the way bias is banned along racial and gender lines.
The concept is obscene. For the same reason that you don’t strike a match near gasoline, anyone carrying the virus should be banned from nursing homes, not forced on them.
Recall that the phrase “out of an abundance of caution” was used to justify shutdowns of schools, churches and commerce and impose social distancing guidelines everywhere. Nursing homes needed even more extreme protections, which is why all visitors, including family, were banned, lest they accidentally infect loved ones and start a daisy chain of death.
Nursing homes have ‘no right’ to reject coronavirus patients: Cuomo
Yet when it came to those same facilities, members of Gov. Cuomo’s team didn’t exhibit a whit of caution or common sense. The results were predictably catastrophic.
The second sentence in the same paragraph compounds the disaster. It says nursing homes “are prohibited from requiring a hospitalized resident who is determined medically stable to be tested for COVID-19 prior to admission or readmission.”
In plain English, nursing homes cannot even ask whether a patient coming from a hospital has been tested for the virus or is positive. Unless the referring hospital volunteers that information, nursing homes must wait until the patient arrives and do their own tests.
Even then, the state wasn’t done creating chaos. Officials sprung the order on the facilities without a moment’s notice.
“There was no planning, no thought process to give us time to identify buildings and establish units,” one industry executive said. “It happened so quickly.”
In fact, several executives said that on the day after the order was issued, hospitals immediately called with infected patients and, referring to the order, said you cannot reject them, you must take them.
Executives described frantic efforts to segregate infected patients, but not every facility had the staff or space to do it. Most lacked sufficient protective equipment.
The disease has claimed more than 3,500 souls in nursing and rehab centers, or nearly 25 percent of the total known deaths in the state. There is no way to know exactly how many died as a result of the state order, but the number is certainly not zero. The cause and effect relationship is obvious.
Almost as maddening as the order has been Cuomo’s reaction. When The Post asked him about it last Monday, he actually claimed to know nothing about it.
His health commissioner, Dr. Howard Zucker, was left to defend the policy, the ultimate mission impossible. The order is indefensible.
The clear aim was to relieve pressure on hospitals bursting with coronavirus patients. But in addition to wanting to know why there was no warning, nursing home officials want to know why the Javits Center or the Navy hospital ship Comfort were not used, where infected patients could be isolated.
In fact, The Post reported Saturday that Donny Tuchman, the CEO of Brooklyn’s Cobble Hill Health Center, told state officials on April 9 he couldn’t handle the flood of infected patients and specifically asked about using the Javits and Comfort instead.
He was turned down, even though both facilities were caring for only a fraction of their capacities. So far, Tuchman’s facility has lost 55 residents to the coronavirus, the most of any nursing home in New York. And now the Comfort is getting ready to leave New York because it’s not needed.
One day he said it was “not our job” to provide them with equipment, even as aides insist the state has provided thousands of face masks, gowns and other items — including body bags.
The following day, the governor became even more hostile, vowing to investigate the homes and threatening to take away their licenses. An aide said the aim was to “get to the bottom of the high death count.”
If Cuomo really wants the truth, he will start his investigation in his own Health Department.
In the industry, his threats are viewed as a warning against criticism, with one owner certain it means “Cuomo is coming after us.”
Said another executive: “Our nurses are putting themselves at risk, then they go home and hear the governor’s criticism. So instead of cheers, we get crap. Now he’s tormenting us, just to protect a policy that was wrong-headed.”
Trump walks back disinfectant comments
Less press? good!
Reports that President Trump is cutting back his appearances at the daily White House briefings count as good news. As I wrote last week, the events had become bad TV — too long and too often dominated by his tiresome fights with the press.
Most of the media loved the attention and, like so many strutting peacocks, used it to display their hate-Trump agenda. Taking away their face time is reason alone to make the change.
A bigger one is that the actual war against the virus frequently played second fiddle to some stray or strange comment the president made. His musings Thursday about people being injected with disinfectants sent a million heads exploding and drowned out the debate about how fast to reopen the economy.
Having people go back to work is the last thing some on the left want. An anchor at MSNBC, Nicolle Wallace, sees a “silver lining” in the current situation because it hurts the president.
There’s no point in arguing with people that far gone. Being ignored is what they fear — and deserve.
Silly Stringer’s ‘board’ games
City Comptroller Scott Stringer has given up on being relevant. His latest press release wants to force a director off the board of J.P.Morgan Chase for being a “climate change denier.”
If Stringer has nothing to contribute during the pandemic, he should furlough himself and save taxpayers the cash.
Headline: Pressured by China, E.U. Softens Report on COVID-19 Disinformation