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New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo finally ends policy that forced nursing homes to take in COVID-19 patients


A deadly policy

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo speaks during a coronavirus briefing At Northwell Feinstein Institute For Medical Research in Manhasset, New York. (Al Bello/Getty Images)

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) announced Sunday that nursing homes would no longer be forced to accept patients with COVID-19 who are discharged from hospitals, according to ABC News.

More than 26,600 people in U.S. nursing homes have died with the disease caused by the novel coronavirus. More than 20% of those nursing home deaths occurred in New York.

So, after more than 5,300 people died in New York nursing homes of COVID-19, even though it was well known from the beginning that the elderly were at highest risk of serious illness and death from the virus, Cuomo has finally made a change. ABC News reports:

A March 25 state health department directive said nursing homes couldn't refuse new or returning residents because they tested positive for the virus. The policy, similar to one in neighboring New Jersey, was intended to help free up hospital beds for the sickest patients as cases surged.

Now, "we're just not going to send a person who is positive to a nursing home after a hospital visit," Cuomo said Sunday. He said such patients would be accommodated elsewhere, such as sites originally set up as temporary hospitals.

The policy change puts the responsibility on hospitals to find alternatives for where to send discharged patients. Despite fears about New York hospitals' ability to handle the COVID-19 outbreak, the state's health care system was not nearly as overwhelmed as some models projected.

The policy change doesn't mean nursing homes can't choose to take in patients with COVID-19 – they can still take in people from home who need care. But Cuomo urged them only to do so if they have the ability to do so safely, and said nursing homes should transfer anyone they can't properly care for.

Cuomo also said nursing home workers will be tested twice per week, with residents getting tested as much as possible, according to ABC News.

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