ALBANY, N.Y. (AP) - New York hospitals released more than 6,300 recovering coronavirus patients into nursing homes during the height of the pandemic under a controversial, now-scrapped policy, according to a report from the New York State Health Department.
But state officials argued Monday that the policy was not to blame for one of the nation's highest nursing home death tolls.
They instead contended the virus’ spread through nursing homes was driven by more than 20,000 infected home staffers, many of whom kept going to work.
Commissioner of Health Howard Zucker said nursing home guidance and preparation was a health department priority since early on in the pandemic.
"From the beginning, New York State Department of Health undertook aggressive steps to prepare health care facilities, including nursing homes, to prevent and control the spread of COVID-19," said Zucker. "New York sent over 8.5 million pieces of PPE to the nursing homes around the state, we issued infection control guidance for health care facilities, generally and specifically nursing home guidance."
New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo reversed the March 25 policy after nearly two months. To date, the state's care homes have tolled more than 6,400 coronavirus deaths.
Sen. Jim Tedisco, R-49, released a statement regarding the health report, saying, in part, “I appreciate the work of the state health commissioner, who is appointed by the governor, but this report should not be the final word on this subject. Given the magnitude of deaths during this terrible crisis, the families need the truth about what happened and some degree of closure over the loss of their loved ones and that can only be achieved through complete and total transparency.”