ALBANY, N.Y. – New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo says his emergency powers had “nothing to do” with COVID deaths at nursing homes, claiming the virus was already there when he directed facilities to take sick residents back into the facilities.
“On my emergency powers, first – emergency powers have nothing to do with nursing homes. I’ve taken hundreds of actions; the legislature can reverse any action that I take. Not even by a bill, just by passing 50% of the Assembly and the Senate. They’ve never reversed a single action,” said Cuomo during a live briefing on Monday.
The legislature is calling the governor’s power into question after claims the administration withheld and underreported nursing home deaths cover up outbreaks caused by an executive order made in March.
Cuomo claims his March order didn’t affect the death rate at nursing homes, because COVID-19 was already present in the facilities.
“Ninety-eight percent of the people who took a person back from a hospital, who was probably no longer contagious, already had it in the facility. And they signed, and agreed, that they could handle it because they already had people with COVID in the nursing home,” he said.
The governor says staff and visitors brought the virus into the facilities, not patients returning from hospitals. He said this was at the time when health experts said COVID-19 could only be spread by symptomatic people.
“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 home when we didn’t even know we had COVID," he said. "Staff walking into a nursing home, even though they were asymptomatic, because the national experts all told us, you could only spread COVID if you had symptoms – and they were wrong."
Cuomo also says the death rate was not affected by the order.
“If you look at the rate of death before the March 25 order, and after the order was rescinded, the rate of death is the same. By the way, if you look at the rate of death in the nursing homes in the spring, overall, and in the second surge, the winter/fall surge, the rate of death is the same.”
However, Cuomo did acknowledge that officials should have moved faster to release some information sought by lawmakers, the public and the press.
He still claims deaths in nursing homes and hospitals were always "fully, publicly and accurately reported,” and the state merely paused reporting to the state legislature to answer the DOJ inquiry first.
Cuomo has seen his image as a pandemic-taming leader dented by a series of disclosures involving nursing homes in recent weeks.
He said he would propose reforms involving nursing homes and hospitals in the upcoming state budget.