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Cuomo creates COVID-only homes — after thousands died

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What a great idea: New York has created COVID-only nursing homes across the state to treat still-positive patients after they’re discharged from hospitals. If only Team Cuomo had moved to do it before thousands of seniors died after the state forced homes to take in COVID-positive patients, forbidding them even from testing for the virus.

State Health Commissioner Howard Zucker revealed Wednesday in a letter to legislators that the department started setting up COVID-only homes in November: “The homes were established to allow the transfer of MEDICALLY STABLE, BUT persistently positive COVID-19 nursing home eligible patients from Article 28 hospitals to these nursing homes to further their recovery prior to discharge to home or another nursing home.” He gave no details beyond noting 19 such homes with a total of 1,941 beds.

Zucker’s admission that some patients are “persistently positive” contradicts his department’s whitewashing July report that absolved itself of responsibility after the March 25 mandate led to fatal outbreaks at previously COVID-free nursing homes. It pretended virus-positive patients sent from hospitals to nursing homes were no longer contagious and so hadn’t caused the outbreaks.

Why didn’t the state create COVID-only homes nearly a year ago, as some other states did? Early in the pandemic, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services waived regulations to make their creation possible, allowing the temporary use of buildings as skilled nursing facilities and lifting limits on transfers and discharges.

The state even denied the request of nursing-home operators to send their positive patients to the hospitals the feds set up at the Javits Center and on the USNS Comfort.

It may take months to learn the state’s excuse for waiting so long: Zucker’s letter responded to questions lawmakers asked him back in August. He sat on the numbers showing the true toll of the virus on nursing homes (13,297 dead residents) until Attorney General Tish James’ report called out the state’s massive undercount.

A top Cuomo aide’s bizarre excuse to state lawmakers for the stall: “We froze” for fear the numbers would “be used against us” by federal prosecutors. Isn’t concealing evidence itself a crime?

Hmm. We thought the governor was focused on keeping the voters in the dark. But perhaps he’s less worried about staying in office and more about staying out of prison.

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