Patients in New York hospitals must now test negative for the coronavirus before they can be discharged to nursing homes, Gov. Andrew Cuomo said Sunday — partially reversing a policy that forced sickened seniors into facilities housing those most vulnerable.
“We’re just not going to send a person who is positive to a nursing home after a hospital visit,” said Cuomo during an Albany press briefing. “Period.”
The ruling partially overrides a controversial March 25 order that nursing homes cannot deny admission or read missionon the basis of a positive or suspected COVID-19 case.
That policy has been roundly criticized as counterintuitive for forcing coronavirus carriers into nursing homes, even as Cuomo has repeatedly acknowledged that seniors are among those most susceptible to the virus.
“This virus uses nursing homes,” Cuomo said on Sunday. “They are ground zero.”
“It’s a congregation of vulnerable people.”
The governor has argued that the March policy was simply in place to prevent discrimination, and that nursing homes always had not just the right, but the duty to refer COVID-positive patients elsewhere if they couldn’t care for them.
Cuomo continued to defend the policy on Sunday, arguing that only 12 percent of the Empire State’s now 21,478 coronavirus fatalities have come in nursing homes, placing New York 34th out of the 50 states.
“Whatever we’re doing has worked, on the facts,” said Cuomo.
He also noted that the new directive doesn’t prohibit COVID-positive people from being admitted to nursing homes via other avenues.
“This is binding on a hospital, not on a nursing home,” he said. “This will reduce the burden on nursing homes all across the board, because they’re not gonna get any COVID people from a hospital.”
Cuomo additionally mandated on Sunday that all nursing home staff must be tested twice weekly going forward.
“That’s not just a temperature check, that is a diagnostic test,” said Cuomo. “We have the tests available.
“The most vulnerable population deserves the highest level of care.”
Cuomo announced the changes as another 207 statewide deaths were reported in the 24-hour period ending at midnight Sunday.
The grim figure equals the fatalities reported on March 27, reaching a low untouched in over a month.
“Still terribly high,” said Cuomo. “But better.”