Andrew Cuomo is still fibbing about his deadly COVID nursing-home order

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Four years after ordering COVID-positive patients into New York nursing homes, Andrew Cuomo’s excuses for that fateful mistake have gotten older but no better.

He’s still relying on arguments that were long ago debunked.

He’s still trying to blame anyone but himself. And he’s still trying to minimize how many people died.

He kept up his deflection Tuesday in Washington as he faced a closed-door interrogation by the House Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Pandemic.

Inside the room, he faced a long-delayed moment of truth — because lying to Congress would be a crime.

Outside in front of the microphones, however, he gave his increasingly tired spin one more go.

He claimed, for starters, that his administration was simply following federal guidance when, on March 25, 2020, it mandated that nursing homes accept COVID-positive patients being transferred from hospitals.

In fact, guidance from both the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services had emphasized that nursing homes should admit sick patients only if they were prepared to take special precautions — such as isolating them in separate wings or buildings, and assigning separate staff to work with them.

The state’s order made no mention of special safeguards, nor did it cite the federal guidelines — sending the signal that homes were expected to comply no matter what.

In his prepared statement to the panel, Cuomo also made yet another attempt to twist statistics in his favor.

“According to data from the CMS, by the end of 2020 — the year that the infamous DOH admissions guidance was in effect for six weeks — New York was Number 39 in terms of pro rata nursing home deaths,” he claimed.

“This despite New York being ground zero for COVID.”

What he failed to note is that CMS did not start collecting that data until mid-May 2020, and made retroactive reporting by nursing homes optional.

The resulting data set therefore leaves out the worst period of New York’s first wave — and thousands of nursing-home deaths.

This is a classic example of lying with statistics, and smacks of desperation on Cuomo’s part.

In another familiar trope, Cuomo pretended that criticism of his nursing-home policy was ginned up by Republicans — and by former President Donald Trump himself — to distract from their own feckless response to the pandemic.

In reality, it was the family members of nursing-home residents who first raised the alarm.

Among them was Queens Assemblyman Ron Kim, one of the Legislature’s more left-leaning Democrats, whose uncle died in a nursing home in April 2020.

And let’s not forget that it was Democrats who opened the impeachment investigation — over the nursing-home mess, sexual harassment and other issues — that prompted Cuomo’s resignation in 2021.

The simple truth is that ordering patients into nursing homes full of acutely vulnerable residents was a bad decision.

It certainly wasn’t the only source of COVID in nursing homes, but it made a bad situation worse.

And Cuomo and his team proceeded to compound the error by refusing to be truthful about it — by consistently misstating how the policy worked and, worse still, by hiding the full death toll for almost a year, until my employer, the Empire Center, won a court order under the Freedom of Information Law.

Honesty could have gone a long way to mitigate the damage.

New Jersey, for example, issued an almost identical order to New York’s.

But health officials there gave the industry a chance to comment — and responded to their protests by allowing nursing homes to opt out.

They also canceled the policy after two weeks when the gravity of the crisis became clear. 

The Cuomo administration, by contrast, sprang its order on nursing homes with no warning — and later tried to blame operators for not refusing to comply.

New York also kept the policy in place for more than six weeks, until early May, even though hospital crowding began to decline in mid-April.

This episode belongs in public health textbooks as an example of how not to respond in a crisis.

Too bad Cuomo still hasn’t learned the lesson he taught so well.

Bill Hammond is the senior fellow for health policy at the Empire Center.



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