Scalise dismantles claims in Cuomo administration’s ‘half-baked’ nursing home report, reiterates call for him to cooperate with Congressional investigation

Published: Jul 9, 2020

On Thursday, Republican Whip and House Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Crisis Ranking Member Steve Scalise (R-La.) once again called on NY Governor Andrew Cuomo (D) to answer questions about his deadly “must admit” order that forced the state’s nursing homes to take in potentially infective coronavirus patients in contradiction of federal safety guidelines.

In the letter, Scalise addresses the recent release of a report from the New York State Department of Health’s (NYSDOH) — the very same department that issued Cuomo’s nursing home order in the first place — which makes the highly questionable claim that nursing home admission policies “were not a significant factor in nursing home fatalities.”

“In addition to being dubious on its face, this conclusion was reached through a flawed methodology,” Ranking Member Scalise wrote. “Disappointingly, it also casts aspersion on heroic frontline nursing home workers in the process.”

The letter then goes on to list the “numerous flaws that raise serious questions” about the report’s conclusions which include the use of faulty data and suspicious methodology.

“NYSDOH’s report appears to be little more than your administration’s latest attempt to deflect criticism and shift blame for the consequences of your deadly nursing home order,” the letter concludes. “But blame-shifting, name-calling and half-baked data manipulations will not make the facts or the questions they raise go away. The families of those affected by your March 25 order deserve answers about why it was put in place and, rest assured, we will not give up until we get those answers.”

Key excerpts from the letter:

“The report claims that your readmission order did not increase nursing home deaths because a large number of infected patients were sent back to affected facilities after the mortality at those facilities peaked in April. But this claim ignores the simple reality that just a single coronavirus infected patient can infect several others when placed in close quarters among a high-risk population or, as you famously put it, like ‘fire through dry grass.’”

“NYSDOH dismisses the nursing home order as a driving factor in patient deaths because the peak in nursing deaths did not align with peak hospital readmissions. This analysis, however, ignores the role that readmissions played in the rate of deaths, even if they were declining. Whether or not nursing home deaths would be less numerous and would decline far faster without your order is an important question this report fails to even address.”

The NYSDOH claims the patients readmitted under your order were no longer contagious. The report states, “most patients readmitted to nursing homes were likely not infectious” but does not make it clear what evidence — if any — exists to back up that claim, and your order prohibited nursing homes from even testing readmitted patients.

“This assessment is fundamentally flawed from the outset because it only accounts for patient deaths in nursing homes facilities and does not include potentially readmission-related deaths that occurred after nursing home patients were transported to hospitals. This flawed use of data incorrectly colors every assertion made in the report.”

Read the full text of the letter here.

Background:

  • On March 13, 2020, the Center for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) issued guidance “For Infection Control and Prevention of Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) in Nursing Homes.”
  • The March 13 guidance said that “nursing homes should admit any individual that they would normally admit to their facility, including individuals from hospitals where a case of COVID-19 was/is present” only if the nursing home can follow Centers for Disease Control (CDC) quarantining guidance.
  • CMS Administrator Seema Verma later said, “[u]nder no circumstances should a hospital discharge a patient to a nursing home that is not prepared to take care of those patient’s needs.”
  • Despite these warnings, however, governors of multiple states – including New York — issued guidance and executive orders forcing nursing homes to admit people with the virus, thereby encouraging the spread to those vulnerable populations.
  • On June 15, 2020, Republican members of the House Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Crisis sent a letter to Cuomo requesting information on his nursing home order. To date, they have not received a direct response from Cuomo or your administration; he has instead opted to hurl political slurs rather than simply answer questions about his actions.
  • On June 25, 2020, after receiving no response from your administration, the Select Subcommittee members — along with members of the New York Congressional Delegation — called on New York Attorney General Letitia James to look into the Cuomo administration’s nursing home orders. James’ office has also provided no direct response.
  • New York has suffered 6,462 nursing home deaths related to COVID-19. That is already more than 25% of the State’s total COVID-19 deaths.