Of all the missteps in the early days of the coronavirus crisis, New York state’s Health Department may have committed the worst: ordering nursing homes to accept residents who tested positive for COVID-19.
Instead of quarantining the folks most vulnerable to the disease, the state encouraged its spread: 85 percent of the state’s confirmed deaths from the bug are people over 60, with nearly a quarter of all corona fatalities coming in nursing or adult-care facilities — and at least 2,210 such deaths tallied in the city.
And when asked why these residents and workers weren’t better protected, Gov. Andrew Cuomo answered Wednesday, it “wasn’t our job.” It was up to privately run homes to keep infected people isolated; if they needed help, the governor magnanimously offered, they should’ve asked.
No. It was up to the state to contain the spread. That’s why visitors have been banned from nursing homes since the start of the outbreak.
As best we can tell, Dr. Howard Zucker, the state’s health commissioner, made his order so these patients could be released from stressed hospitals — but that doesn’t make it any less callous.
At the least, the state should now dedicate a few already-contaminated homes to COVID-19 cases, if not set up some special facilities like the one in the Javits Center.
Instead, the state has allowed casualties to mount, with some homes even having to leave the dead in their rooms for lack of a place to store them.
Despite all evidence to the contrary, Zucker claims the nursing homes are equipped to protect and segregate the corona-stricken. But critics such as Assemblyman Ron Kim (D-Queens) report that many lack the equipment, trained staff and/or protocols to control it. He explains: “The staff, the families, everyone is telling me there’s completely a lack of support and they don’t have the necessary PPE [personal protective equipment] to be safe.”
Mayor Bill de Blasio, meanwhile, has been sending coronavirus patients to the city’s public nursing home on Roosevelt Island — where staff and local officials say the virus is spreading to its vulnerable, high-risk residents. Many are wheelchair-bound and/or chronically ill. Wrong place to be in tune with the governor, Mr. Mayor.
But it’s Cuomo who really needs to act. “I am wondering who will hold Gov. Cuomo accountable for the deaths of so many older people due to his reckless decision,” Arlene Mullin, whose mom died of the virus in a New York home, writes to The Post’s Michael Goodwin.
Override Zucker, governor — then fire him.
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