In-Depth: 1 year since NY’s COVID-19 nursing home order

Jennifer Lewke
Updated: March 25, 2021 07:08 PM
Created: March 25, 2021 07:05 PM

ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WHEC) — One year ago, the State of New York handed down an order to nursing homes, requiring them to accept COVID-19 positive residents back into their facilities.

That order is now at the center of an investigation into how many nursing home residents in New York actually died from COVID-19 and whether the Cuomo administration tried to hide the true numbers.

At the time and in the months following the order, Gov. Andrew Cuomo has maintained he was trying to free-up much-needed space in hospitals. The nursing home residents that were sent back no longer needed acute care but many were likely still contagious.   

The March 25, 2020 order stated, “No resident shall be denied re-admission or admission to the NH solely based on a confirmed or suspected diagnosis of COVID-19. NHs are prohibited from requiring a hospitalized resident who is determined medically stable to be tested for COVID-19 prior to admission or readmission.”

Many feel that order started or at least was part of a chain of events that has ultimately led to the 15,000 COVID deaths in New York State nursing homes.  

Bob Hurlbut is the owner of 13 local nursing homes, “I look at the pandemic like having a baby there was no instructions,” he recalls. COVID-19 spread in five of his 13 homes.

“We were demonized and have been demonized,” Hurlbut said.

But he believes the start of some of that spread began with the March 25 2020 order.

At a press conference in May 2020, Governor Cuomo said this, “any nursing home could just say I can't take it, I can't handle a COVID person in my facility.”

Hurlbut says that certainly wasn’t his impression of the order.  

Bob Hurlbut: That March 25th order which mandated us to take residents from the hospital or else they could shut us down or go into receivership... it was actually the governor's edict that started all this. 

Jennifer Lewke (News10NBC): He [Governor] will argue that you could've said no?

Bob Hurlbut: No, we can't say no because we were threatened that they were going to come in for receivership, we were going to get fines and penalties... the health department was going to come in and take over and actually due process was going to be thrown out... so, no we couldn't say no. We were told to.

In a statement, Gary Holmes, a spokesman for the NYS Department of Health tells News10NBC, “As the Attorney General’s report rightly points out, the March 25th Department of Health  guidance was consistent with and followed Federal guidance issued by the CDC and CMS and was not a directive to accept COVID patients if they could not otherwise provide appropriate care – a point the Attorney General’s Office found the nursing homes understood.”


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