Michael Goodwin: Gov. Cuomo, New York's nursing home deaths are on you, not someone else

By Michael Goodwin | New York Post

It is heartlessly cruel to blame the victims.

Another day, another scapegoat. Or two.

For months, New York’s Gov. ­Andrew Cuomo has been desperate to find somebody, anybody, to blame for the nursing-home carnage he helped to cause. The list of those he blamed was blasphemous — it started with God. It was ludicrous when he later aimed at President Trump and The New York Post.

His latest bid is simply scandalous. Cuomo has the nerve to blame grieving family members and heroic nursing-home staffers, charging they were the ones who infected and killed as many 12,000 elderly and helpless residents.

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Desperation is no excuse. This is shamelessness on stilts. And it is heartlessly cruel to blame the victims.

The outrageous claims came in a report released by state Health Commissioner Dr. Howard Zucker, along with hospital administrators. Conveniently, the report they prepared absolves all of them of any responsibility. What a coincidence!

Coverups don’t get any more brazen. Or less credible.

The fact remains that Zucker wrote, with obvious hospital ­input, the March 25 order forcing all nursing homes to take people infected with the coronavirus. It ultimately resulted in 6,326 sick patients being transferred from hospitals to nursing homes between March 25 and May 8.

The homes and other long-term-care facilities were given no warning, advice or help in preparing to receive those patients. There were no inspections to learn whether the facilities had space and staff to segregate COVID patients from the long-term residents, most of whom were especially vulnerable to the virus.

The order was so flawed that it even blocked the facilities from asking if those being transferred had tested positive for the virus. All those demands run counter to federal recommendations and requirements.

Many if not most of the staffs in nursing homes had insufficient or inferior protective gear, which is almost certainly why many of the workers became infected. Later, when the state did begin to send some equipment, it always included body bags.

Yet Cuomo said Tuesday that “it is that the staff got infected, they came to work, and they brought in the infection.” His only basis for making that claim is the hope that it will take the heat off him.

Based on the timing of the outbreaks at nursing homes, it is far more likely that the infections traveled in the opposite direction: many staff members got infected at their jobs, then took the disease home to their families and neighbors.

Cuomo also tried to clear himself by saying family and other visitors weren’t banned from nursing homes until March 13, a suggestion that families imported the disease. Again, there is no evidence, no contact tracing, just a self-serving assertion.

While there may have been isolated cases of infected, asymptomatic visitors, the fact remains that the nearly 600 facilities involved did not have significant numbers of coronavirus cases and deaths until the days and weeks following the March 25 order. Some had zero cases until then.

The insistence that the order played no role won’t wash. For one thing, Cuomo’s office claims the Zucker report was “peer reviewed,” but only by organizations that have a stake in its conclusions.

For another, in addition to The Post, which first recognized the lethality of the order, numerous other media outlets have independently confirmed the consequences. In this case, that’s peer review worth the name.

Indeed, it became so obvious that the March 25 order was a fatal blunder that Cuomo effectively rescinded it on May 10. Then, with a quick pivot and a grinding of gears, he shifted into an ­unconscionable hunt for scapegoats.

And hasn’t stopped. Some days, there is more than one. Trump is a frequent target, with Cuomo saying recently that the president “makes up facts, he makes up science.”

He also accused the president of being in “denial of the problem” and added, “He is facilitating the virus, he is enabling the virus.”

If that sounds familiar, it’s because many people say exactly the same things about Cuomo.

Nonetheless, I still believe the governor can and should do the right thing and stop trying to duck responsibility. His refusal to accept the reality of what he did has added to the pain of thousands of families who lost their parents, their grandparents, their siblings, without a chance to visit and say goodbye.

Many families say that, at the height of the pandemic onslaught, they were unable even to reach anyone in the facilities to get information. Their only contact would come later, with a call from a harried nurse or administrator saying their relative had passed away.

Then came the grinding complexities of arranging funerals and getting accurate death certificates, all of which added to their anguish.

The stories are heartbreaking, yet Cuomo has never heard them. He has, to my knowledge, not returned a single one of the numerous phone calls or letters relatives sent him, seeking answers. Nor has he made any effort to hold even virtual meetings with those whose grief is boundless.

This is not lead­ership. This is cowardice.

This column first appeared in the New York Post.

Michael Goodwin is a Fox News contributor and New York Post columnist.

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