While New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo has so far had difficulty getting enough coronavirus vaccines for people in his state, one thing that he has had no problem distributing is blame for the large number of nursing home deaths caused by COVID-19.
Cuomo’s order from March 25, 2020, said nursing homes could not turn away residents based on confirmed or suspected COVID-19 cases and could not require people seeking admission to get tested first. As a result, infected people were in the same facility as other residents, creating a risk for spread at the height of the pandemic.
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The governor has refused to accept responsibility for deaths that then occurred at these facilities, while his administration hid the number of casualties by first only reporting those who died at the nursing homes and not those who were at hospitals or elsewhere. Here is a list of the people, institutions and concepts he has blamed.
Nursing home staff
Cuomo has insisted that nursing home deaths were not the result of people with COVID-19 coming from hospitals to the facilities, but from infected nursing home staff spreading the virus to residents.
“COVID did not get into the nursing homes by people coming from hospitals, COVID got into the nursing homes by staff walking into the nursing homes,” Cuomo said Monday.
Danielle Pagoulatos-Lieblein, a nursing home nutrition director with 30 years of experience in the industry, blasted Cuomo for this, telling “Fox & Friends” on Tuesday that Cuomo gave nursing home staff “no plan” to deal with the coronavirus pandemic.
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“He seems to want to blame everybody all the time and never take responsibility for anything that he has done,” Pagoulatos-Lieblein said.
Nursing home visitors
Immediately after blaming nursing staff on Monday, Cuomo suggested that people visiting nursing homes could have been responsible.
“COVID may have been brought into nursing homes because visitors brought it in and didn’t know they were contagious because the guidance was you could only be contagious if you had symptoms,” Cuomo said. “That turned out to be wrong.”
Roughly 10 minutes prior to suggesting this, Cuomo had noted that “losing a loved one in a nursing home during this situation was extraordinarily painful” because “there was no visitation.”
Fox News’ request for clarification of the seeming contradiction went unanswered by Cuomo’s office.
In January, after the New York Attorney General’s office released a report showing that Cuomo had failed to accurately report nursing home deaths, the governor blamed the incorrect data on guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
“The state Department of Health followed federal guidance. So if you think there was a mistake, then go talk to the federal government,” Cuomo said. He then immediately claimed that “[i]t’s not about pointing fingers or blame, this became a political football.”
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Former President Donald Trump
In an Oct. 29, 2020, appearance on “The View,” Cuomo blamed then-President Donald Trump “for every death in this country,” claiming Trump “lied about it from day one.”
Cuomo said the Trump administration “knew that millions were going to get infected and hundreds of thousands were going to die” and called it “totally incompetent.”
In that same appearance, Cuomo accused critics of “playing politics” with the nursing home situation, claiming the idea that people died because of his directive was a “conspiracy” theory.
“The way the law works is no nursing home in New York can accept a patient if they don’t believe they can care for that patient adequately and if they can do it within the safety of their facilities, so the conspiracy they’re trying to spread has no factual basis,” Cuomo claimed.
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However, Cuomo’s March 25 order did say that nursing homes could not turn away people solely for having COVID-19, and two days before the order he granted broad criminal and civil immunity to nursing homes acting in accordance with state laws and directives.
The Greater New York Hospital Association even advertised the immunity to supporters, boasting in a press release that was later taken down that it “drafted and aggressively advocated for this legislation.”
The New York Post
In the book that he penned in the middle of the pandemic about how he handled the pandemic, Cuomo pointed fingers over the controversy surrounding the nursing home deaths. He specifically blamed conservatives and the New York Post for what he claimed “was an orchestrated strategy” of pushing a “conspiracy” that the nursing home residents died due to his directive.
Cuomo admitted that many people in nursing homes died but insisted that it was “a lie” that they died due to his directive.
Former Health and Human Services official Michael Caputo
One individual Cuomo blamed for the backlash to his nursing home order was Michael Caputo, assistant secretary of public affairs for the Health and Human Services Department under Trump.
In his first public comments since a scathing attorney general report showed that Cuomo’s administration underreported nursing home deaths, the governor accused Caputo and the Trump administration in general of unfair criticism.
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“Where this starts is frankly a political attack from the prior federal administration and HHS… Michael Caputo,” the Democratic governor continued.
Caputo fired back immediately in a statement: “Early on, experts at the Health and Human Services administration identified Cuomo’s foolish executive order as a primary cause for thousands of nursing home COVID deaths in New York. He’s right, I called him out on it immediately… Cuomo is personally responsible for thousands of unnecessary nursing home deaths and he must be held accountable.”
‘Toxic political environment’
At the same Monday press conference in which he blamed nursing home staff and visitors for spreading COVID-19 to nursing homes, Cuomo blamed an overall “toxic political environment” for people claiming otherwise.
The governor continued his narrative that any claim that people died as a result of his March 25, 2020, directive was nothing more than a conspiracy theory.
“Is the environment toxic, politically? Yes,” Cuomo said. “Was this happening last year with this toxic political environment? Yes. And do I think that’s part of the conspiracy theories that filled the void? Yes.”
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Cuomo claimed that such “conspiracy theories” were only allowed to gain momentum because he and his administration did not do enough to dispute them and said that making such claims is “the worst thing” one could say in response to deaths.
“I understand politics. I was critical of President Trump, I also worked with President Trump. I get how strong the feelings are on both sides. But when you’re talking about loved ones dying in nursing homes, when you come up [with] conspiracy theories or disinformation, then the worst thing you could say to somebody who lost a loved one is maybe it didn’t have to be, maybe it was a government issue.”
Fox News’ Morgan Phillips, Brian Flood and Talia Kaplan contributed to this report.