Last week, all hell broke loose for Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D-N.Y.), and the scandals have kept coming this week. Even Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) has called for an investigation into Cuomo’s policy forcing nursing homes to admit COVID-19-positive patients. The FBI and the U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of New York have opened an investigation and a New York assemblyman went public about Cuomo’s threat to “destroy” him.
While the legacy media still focused more on Sen. Ted Cruz’s (R-Texas) brief jaunt to Cancun during the ice storm than Cuomo’s scandal, it seems the legacy media can no longer bury this black mark on Cuomo’s COVID-19 record. Let’s see how many Emmys Cuomo gets after this.
The scandal traces back to March 25, 2020, when Cuomo ordered nursing homes to admit COVID-19 positive patients, in contrast to Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) guidance that explicitly did “not direct any nursing home to accept a COVID-19 positive patient, if they are unable to do so safely.” Last month, Attorney General Letitia James (D-N.Y.) released a report showing that the state government had undercounted COVID-19 deaths connected to nursing homes. According to the report, New York sent 9,000 COVID-19 patients to nursing homes and some of the homes complained to the governor that half of their staff were sick or home with COVID-19.
Of course, PJ Media has long covered the Cuomo nursing home scandal, but it’s nice to see that even the left-leaning elites have finally deigned to concern themselves with the thousands of elderly New Yorkers to whom Cuomo may have given an effective death sentence.
Now that it’s acceptable to talk about Cuomo’s nursing home scandal, we should also bring up the fact that Andrew Cuomo wasn’t exactly alone.
As Fox News meteorologist Janice Dean, who lost her in-laws in New York nursing homes from COVID-19, noted, Govs. Gavin Newsom (D-Calif.), Gretchen Whitmer (D-Mich.), Tom Wolf (D-Pa.), and Phil Murphy (D-N.J.) issued similar orders. According to Mark Steyn, Gov. Charlie Baker (R-Mass.) did, as well.
“I believe all of them should go to jail,” Dean declared.
Yet the nursing home scandals also implicated Pennsylvania’s health secretary, Rachel Levine, whom President Joe Biden nominated for a key role at the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS).
“Dr. Rachel Levine will bring the steady leadership and essential expertise we need to get people through this pandemic — no matter their zip code, race, religion, sexual orientation, gender identity, or disability — and meet the public health needs of our country in this critical moment and beyond,” Biden said in a statement.
In May, however, multiple members of the Pennsylvania State House demanded Levine’s resignation over “the horrific results of the [health] department’s COVID-19 policy” on nursing homes and other facilities under the department’s oversight. More than half (10,022) of Pennsylvania’s 19,390 COVID-19 deaths can be traced back to long-term care facilities. In May, long-term care facilities made up two-thirds of the state’s COVID-19 deaths and Levine reportedly delayed releasing public information about the state’s response to the virus in such facilities.
According to a study of over 1,000 patients admitted to the hospital with the coronavirus in New York City, over 90 percent contracted the virus from close contact with an infected person, including sheltering at home or contained living situations like in nursing homes and jails.
In March, the Pennsylvania Department of Health under Levine released guidelines for nursing facilities, saying they “must continue to accept new admissions and receive readmissions for current residents who have been discharged from the hospital who are stable to alleviate the increasing burden in the acute care settings. This may include stable patients who have had the COVID-19 virus.”
Like cCuomo’s order, this order contradicted CMS guidance. CMS advised that “nursing homes should admit any individual that they would normally admit to their facility, including individuals from hospitals where a case of COVID-19 was/is present” only if the nursing home can follow” CDC guidance.
CMS Administrator Seema Verma also warned, “Under no circumstances should a hospital discharge a patient to a nursing home that is not prepared to take care of those patients’ needs.”
The COVID-19 nursing home scandal should arguably tank Levine’s nomination. Yet Levine’s case adds another wrinkle.
In May, Levine (a biological male who identifies as female) removed his mother from a personal care home as COVID-19 spread in such elderly facilities. Levine insisted that his mother was in a personal care home, not a nursing home, but COVID-19 has spread in personal care homes similar to the way it spread in nursing homes.
“My mother requested and my sister and I as her children comply to move her to another location during the COVID-19 outbreak,” Levine said at a press conference in May. “My mother is 95 years old. She is very intelligent and more than competent to make her own decisions.”
Levine’s mother may indeed be able to make her own decisions, but this removal still seems suspicious. Did Levine move to protect her mother from the virus even while ordering facilities for the elderly to admit COVID-positive patients?
The nursing home scandal does not end with Cuomo. Levine, Newsom, Whitmer, Wolf, Murphy, and Baker have a great deal to answer for. Let’s not forget the forest for one particularly nasty tree.
Tyler O’Neil is the author of Making Hate Pay: The Corruption of the Southern Poverty Law Center. Follow him on Twitter at @Tyler2ONeil.