May 10, 2020 - Health

Cuomo announces new rules to protect nursing homes from coronavirus

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) announced new rules and restrictions to protect nursing homes from the coronavirus at a press briefing Sunday.

Why it matters: Cuomo has faced growing backlash in recent days for failing to address the extreme vulnerabilities presented by nursing homes and long-term facilities, where the coronavirus has killed at least 5,380 residents and workers in New York alone, according to the New York Times.

The state of play: New York nursing homes must transfer patients to another facility if they are unable to fully care for them with appropriate staffing, PPE and quarantine capacity. The same rules apply for homes that are not able to properly care for patients that test positive for COVID-19.

  • Nursing home staff must be tested for the coronavirus twice a week.
  • Hospitals can no longer discharge a patient to a nursing home unless they've tested negative for the coronavirus.
  • Nursing homes that do not follow the procedures will lose their licenses.

The big picture: New York had previously limited visitation to nursing homes except for end-of-life visits, in addition to requiring staff to use PPE and other standard precautionary measures.

  • However, Cuomo was criticized because the rule that limited visitation effectively shut out ombudsmen, government-appointed advocates for nursing home patients.
  • New York also does not allow nursing homes to deny patients on the grounds that they tested positive for the coronavirus, which state Senate Republicans claim “imported the virus into places that house New York’s most vulnerable," per Politico.
  • However, that policy requires nursing homes that do not have the ability to care for coronavirus patients to transfer them to another facility.

What he's saying:

"This virus uses nursing homes. They are ground zero. They are the vulnerable population in the vulnerable location. It's a congregation of vulnerable people. ... If a nursing home operator does not follow these procedures, they will lose their license. Well that's harsh. No. Harsh is having a nursing home resident who doesn't get the appropriate care. That's what's harsh. 
— Andrew Cuomo

Go deeper: New York reports 1,700 previously undisclosed coronavirus deaths in nursing homes

Editor's note: This story has been updated to clarify criticisms of Cuomo's handling of nursing homes.

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