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Cuomo administration says its nursing home policy was based on federal guidelines

Top aide DeRosa says state followed CDC advice, but document suggests there may have been options

BUFFALO, N.Y. — The Cuomo administration says it was following federal guidelines when it directed state nursing homes to accept COVID patients from hospitals. But a review of the cited document finds the federal guidance is not clear cut.

On Saturday, during the daily statewide COVID briefing, Secretary to the Governor, Melissa DeRosa said, “The policy that the Department of Health put out was in-line directly with the March 13th directive put out by CDC and CMS that read and I quote, ‘Nursing homes should admit any individuals from any hospitals where COVID is present.’ Not could. Should.”

DeRosa edited the quote. 

The full quote from the memorandum reads: ”Nursing homes should admit any individuals that they would normally admit to their facility, including individuals from hospitals where a case of COVID-19 was/is present.” (Emphasis added to words omitted by DeRosa.)

On the previous page of the memo, it reads: “A nursing home can accept a resident diagnosed with COVID-19 and still under Transmission-Based Precautions for COVID-19 as long as the facility can follow CDC guidance for Transmission-Based Precautions.”

So, is it "should" or "can"? It appears there are multiple possible interpretations of these federal guidelines.

The March 25th directive from the New York State Health Department is much more straight-forward: “No (nursing home) resident shall be denied re-admission or admission to a nursing home solely based on a confirmed or suspected diagnosis of COVID-19.”

Six weeks after issuing the directive, Governor Cuomo announced a change, barring hospitals from discharging patients to nursing homes until they test negative for the coronavirus.

The Associated Press reports some 4,500 COVID-positive New Yorkers went from hospitals to nursing facilities, and 5,700 nursing home residents have died from the virus.

ADDENDUM: A representative of the Governor's office contacted 2 On-Your-Side to point out the March 25th state health department directive also reiterated rules that nursing homes should not admit anyone if they cannot provide appropriate care.

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