As New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) faces articles of impeachment over covering up COVID-19 deaths in nursing homes and multiple allegations of sexual harassment, there is renewed scrutiny of his administration's mishandling of the pandemic, including focus on an executive order that required homes for people with developmental disabilities to accept coronavirus patients.
Cuomo's nursing home scandal, in which the governor issued an executive order to move COVID-19 patients from hospitals to nursing homes and then manipulated data to hide how many senior citizens contracted the coronavirus and died, is well documented. But another directive issued by the governor has until now received little attention.
The April 10 executive order, first highlighted by Maria McFadden Maffucci for National Review, directed residential group homes for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities to accept positive COVID-19 patients released by hospitals, just like the executive order for nursing homes. Cuomo's nursing home order was eventually rescinded, but the order relating to homes for people with disabilities remains in effect. The results were tragic.
According to a study published in Disability and Health Journal in June and cited by McFadden Maffucci, New Yorkers with disabilities living in residential group homes were more than twice as likely to have severe outcomes and deaths from COVID-19. "Circumstances and decisions made early in the pandemic may have contributed to the higher case rate of people living with IDD in residential group homes. Those who tested positive for COVID-19 or who had presumed infection (during the time of limited testing availability) were required to return to their residential setting with instructions to sequester," the study's authors wrote.
Now, Fox News reports that 552 residents at homes for people with disabilities have died of COVID-19, according to the New York Office for People with Developmental Disabilities.
Additionally, more than 6,900 of the more than 34,552 people living in these homes have been infected with coronavirus.
"These group homes were required to have a process in place to expedite the return of asymptomatic residents from the hospital, who were deemed appropriate for return to their OPWDD certified residence," an agency spokeswoman said. "In other words, OPWDD providers could accept individuals only if they could safely accommodate them in the group home."
She added that people "who could not be safely accommodated either remained at the hospital or were served in one of the over 100 temporary sites established for COVID-19 recovery efforts in partnership with OPWDD provider agencies."
New York State Republicans that gave statements to Fox News said they have begun investigating Cuomo's directive and have requested updated data on COVID-19 deaths and infections among New York's IDD community.
"I am deeply concerned that the April 10th order from OPWDD needlessly put some of our most vulnerable citizens in harm's way. Close on the heels of the deadly nursing home order from the Department of Health (DOH), this order appears both dangerous and tone deaf. Transparency has been a major failing of this administration at all levels," state Sen. Mike Martucci, a Republican signatory of the letter and ranking member of the Senate Disabilities Committee, said.
New York has prioritized people with disabilities living in group homes for vaccines and anyone with an intellectual and developmental disability has been eligible to receive a vaccine since Feb. 15.