Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo put the state's nursing homes on notice Thursday. He did the same to Sen. Mitch McConnell of Kentucky.
Cuomo announced a state investigation of nursing homes, detailed initial antibody test results that show nearly 14% of New Yorkers have been exposed to Covid-19, and blasted McConnell’s suggestion that states suffering financially due to the coronavirus pandemic declare bankruptcy.
Cuomo said the New York State Department of Health and the state attorney general would be conducting an investigation into nursing homes and their performance during the coronavirus crisis.
"We are going to undertake an investigation of nursing homes to make sure they are following the rules," Cuomo said during his daily coronavirus briefing from Albany. "If they don't follow the rules, we're going to take appropriate action."
Cuomo responded to the Kentucky Republican's comments, spending several minutes counterpointing what the governor called "one of the really dumb ideas of all time."
McConnell, in a Wednesday interview with conservative radio host Hugh Hewitt, said, “I would certainly be in favor of allowing states to use the bankruptcy route."
"That's how you are going to bring this national economy back, by states declaring bankruptcy?" Cuomo said. "You want to see that market fall through the cellar? You will see a collapse of this national economy. ... Just dumb."
Cuomo called Washington's failure thus far to fund provide coronavirus funding for state and local governments "incredibly short-sighted."
"State and local government funds police and fire and teachers and schools," Cuomo said. "How do you not fund police and fire and teachers and schools, in the midst of this crisis? When you don't fund the state, then the state can't fund the services. It makes no sense to me."
Cuomo was also irritated by a McConnell press release that used the phrase, "stopping blue state bailouts," calling it "vicious" and "ugly" and describing it as "pettiness."
"You want to politically divide this nation now, with all that’s going on?" Cuomo said. "How irresponsible and how reckless."
The state's initial antibody testing showed that 13.9% of New Yorkers tested positive for having the antibodies to fight Covid-19.
The upstate figure was 3.6%; for New York City it was 21.2%, Long Island was 16.7% and for Rockland and Westchester counties it was 11.7%.
The testing was done on random samples of New Yorkers at grocery stores and big-box stores, the governor said, in an attempt to see how many people had been infected with the Covid-19 virus and had developed the antibodies to fight the infections.
"These are people who were infected three, four, five, six weeks ago, they had the virus, they developed the antibodies, and they are now recovered," said Cuomo, who noted that those who were tested, since they were out in the community, were likely not those who were staying at home nor were they likely essential workers.
The testing was conducted over two days on 3,000 New Yorkers over 19 of the state's 62 counties and 40 different localities. Among the 3,000 tested, 32.8% were from upstate; 43% were from New York City, 14.4% were from Long Island and 9.8% were from Rockland and Westchester counties.
Overall statewide hospitalization statistics continued to fall, with the net totals for hospitalizations and net intubations all posting negative numbers (more going out than coming in) for every day for the past week.
Cuomo said the incoming numbers of new Covid-19 patients entering hospitals was “relatively flat.”
The three-day rolling average of incoming patients has been around 1,350 for three straight days. Four days earlier, that number was over 2,000.
The death toll for Wednesday was 438, the fourth straight day that number was in the 400s. In recent weeks, the daily death toll was in the 600- and 700-range.
Cuomo said that the overall death toll, 15,740, will likely increase once the state factors in "at-home deaths" for people who died in their homes. The current death toll identifies only people who died in hospitals or nursing homes.
Regarding nursing homes, the governor said they are private facilities who are required to follow state guidelines.
"They get paid to provide a service, they get regulated by the state government," Cuomo said. "There are certain rules and regulations they must follow, and we put in additional rules and regulations in this crisis."
Cuomo detailed five coronavirus-related guidelines for nursing homes:
1. They must require personal protective equipment as well as temperature checks for staff.
2. Covid-19 residents needed to be isolated in quarantine.
3. They need to separate staff and Covid-19 residents within a facility, or transfer them to another facility, or to another noncertified location.
4. They need to notify all residents and their family members within 24 hours if any resident tests positive for Covid-19 or any resident suffers a Covid-19 related death.
5. They can readmit Covid-19 positive residents only if they have the ability to provide an adequate level of care under state Department of Health and CDC guidance.
"The state has very strict guidelines for privately run facilities," Cuomo said. "That person must have a state regulated level of care. Those are the rules."
Cuomo said these facilities generally do follow guidelines, but have faced additional pressure due to the coronavirus' lethal aspects towards older individuals.
"This is a crisis for nursing homes," he said. "This happens to be a virus that attacks elderly people, and nursing homes are the place of elderly people, so this is a very intense situation for nursing homes. But they still have to do their job according to rules and regulations."