Under Andrew Cuomo's Order, New York Nursing Homes Received 9,000 COVID Patients Before May

Recently released records from the New York Department of Health have revealed that a March 25, 2020 directive issued by Democratic New York Governor Andrew Cuomo resulted in 9,056 hospital patients recovering from COVID-19 being placed into nursing homes, a number that was 40 percent higher than what the state health department had previously reported.

The directive, which forbade nursing homes from turning away residents with COVID-19, was issued to free up hospital beds amid rising case numbers, but Cuomo effectively rescinded it in May 2020, nearly 10 months later, amid worries of increasing infections in nursing homes.

The state health department had previously said that only 6,327 COVID-19 patients had been released from hospitalization back into nursing home care. Recently, the Cuomo administration also revealed that the number of COVID-19 deaths among state long-time care residents is over 15,000, nearly double the 8,500 previously cited by state officials, according to the Associated Press.

Andrew Cuomo COVID-19 nursing homes patients order
A March 25 directive issued by Democratic New York Governor Andrew Cuomo placed 9.056 hospital patients recovering from COVID-19 into nursing homes. The number is 40 percent higher than previously reported by the state health department and comes nearly 10 months after the directive was rescinded amid worries of increasing COVID-19 infections in nursing homes. Jeenah Moon/Getty

Michael Caputo, assistant secretary of public affairs in the Department of Health and Human Services under the administration of then-President Donald Trump, blasted Cuomo's directive, as did other critics. In an August 17, 2020 tweet, Caputo wrote that Cuomo's order had "planted the seeds of infection that killed thousands of grandmothers and grandfathers."

Amid such criticisms, state health officials said that asymptomatic nursing home employees and visitors, rather than recovering COVID-19 patients, were primarily responsible for infecting nursing home residents. Officials also said that Cuomo's directive didn't increase the percentage of COVID-19 deaths in nursing homes, and that number of deaths stayed stable during the window that his directives would've effected.

Regardless, Richard Mollot, executive director of the New York City-based Long Term Care Community Coalition, an organization advocating for care facility residents, blasted Cuomo for his administration's reporting discrepancies.

"The lack of transparency and the meting out of bits of important data has undermined our ability to both recognize the scope and severity of what's going on," Mollot told the AP.

Cuomo discontinued the directive in May 2020, requiring hospitals to obtain a negative COVID-19 test result from patients before allowing them to return to nursing homes.

On Wednesday, New York State Health Commissioner Howard Zucker issued a 16-page letter answering some state lawmakers' questions about nursing home deaths that they had requested answers to six months before. Zucker's letter said that a total of 15,049 residents in elder care facilities had died due to COVID-19. But the conservative watchdog group The Empire Center said the information in Zucker's letter "falls short of what was requested."

Newsweek contacted the New York State Department of Health for comment.