The Daily Gamecock

Column: COVID-19 nursing home deaths were egregious

<p>New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo speaks in January 2021.</p>
New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo speaks in January 2021.

While COVID-19 has drastically impacted millions, one of the most devastating effects has been the more than 160,000 deaths that have occurred within nursing homes. This number consists of 40% of all COVID-19 deaths throughout the country, and it is just one example of what politicians in the COVID-19 era must be held accountable for.

In South Carolina, there have been 1,897 deaths among nursing home residents and staff since April 3, 2020. Under New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, a total of 13,625 nursing home residents died of COVID-19. Cuomo has yet to take accountability for these.

Another example of politicians lacking accountability is within the Palmetto state. Senator Lindsey Graham came under fire this past October for refusing to receive a COVID-19 test before the Senate debate regarding Amy Coney Barrett; only two months later, he posed for pictures receiving the vaccine.

Why shouldn’t politicians who act carelessly be held to the same standards as the majority of other citizens?

Of the over-13,000 total nursing home deaths in New York, 9,335 died within a nursing home facility because a large portion infected COVID-19 patients were sent to a nursing home rather than a hospital. Although many facilities have been overwhelmed with COVID-19 patients, no excuse should warrant politicians to forcefully execute these plans and potentially infect vulnerable populations.

On Jan. 28, Attorney General of New York Letitia James issued a report that revealed how New York state officials underreported nursing home resident COVID-19 deaths by around 50%, as hospital deaths were excluded.

On Feb. 10, Melissa DeRosa, Cuomo’s top aide, made comments signifying the governor's administration had purposefully withheld the release of nursing home COVID-data in fear of it being "used against" the administration after the Department of Justice requested information about private nursing homes, "including the number of residents who died at hospitals and other locations," reported.

Among this, a hasty defense of his prior decisions, a claim by critic and assemblyman Ron Kim (D-Queens) in which Kim said the governor had been threatening his career and recent allegations of sexual assault have rightfully placed Cuomo in hot water with both political parties.

While his state was one of the several that experienced many cases of the disease in its earlier peaks, Cuomo actually claimed that hospitals were never overwhelmed in a CNN interview. Having sent infected patients back to nursing homes, he said New York "always had excess capacity in hospitals."

So, why did the governor mandate an order for nursing homes to admit recovering COVID-19 patients from hospitals despite many warnings that it could unnecessarily cost more lives?

Why did a page of the state’s budget bill passed last March involve a measure to protect nursing home facilities from a range of lawsuits for failure to protect residents against sickness and death?

These actions were completely egregious. Imagine leaving an elderly or disabled family member in a nursing home facility with the intent for them to be cared for — only for them to be subjected to harm.

Many heartbreaking stories have come out regarding family members trapped in nursing homes throughout this pandemic. Among them, USA Today writer Tracy Alvino recounted the experience of her father becoming sick in a New York rehabilitation facility and dying in a hospital (an unaccounted death).

In her words, “New York Governor Andrew Cuomo called his and the state’s handling of the coronavirus "beautiful" ...  my father dying all alone wasn't beautiful.”

Cuomo even won an Emmy for his daily briefings, though he hasn't taken accountability for his various failures. As written by another USA Today writer, Janice Dean, he has blamed everything else for these deaths: God, former President Trump, Mother Nature, the CDC, nursing home staff and even the patients themselves who have died.

While the COVID-19 pandemic has been overwhelming and desolating, communities should strive to protect more vulnerable people and citizens in general.

Reckless behavior by politicians, such as refusing safety protocols (only to readily receive the vaccine) or exposing people to infected patients within facilities — and then attempting to cover up that damage — is inexcusable.

Politicians in states such as New York and South Carolina must be held accountable for their actions and abuses of power within this pandemic, for these decisions have clearly resulted in avoidable losses of human life. 


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