Families Question Cuomo’s Motives for Lifting Nursing Home Restrictions

"andrew cuomo" (CC BY-ND 2.0) by Zack Seward

This week, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo has lifted the visitation restrictions at nursing homes which he implemented since the start of the pandemic last year.

The new set of guidelines that the Governor enacted took effect immediately. This will now allow visitation at all times for all residents. Despite the good news, some questions the timing of the new guidelines, considering that the governor had been facing series of scandals in the past weeks.

“I’m happy the governor is allowing visitations. But I do question the timing,” said Vivian Zayas, co-founder of Voices For Seniors whose mom, Ana Martinez, 78, died from COVID-19 after being transferred from a Long Island nursing home

The co-founder of Voices for Seniors also added that the nursing home residents suffered twice. First due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and second, the visitation restrictions that made them feel lonely.

Zayas said, there are the seniors who died because of the isolation. Adding that “five or ten thousand people died because of loneliness. They gave up.” Zayas also made a comment against the embattled New York governor said, “Cuomo puts out positive news to spin-off negative news about his investigations. The change in policy is too little, too late.”

Although the visitation restrictions has been lifted, there will however be limited exceptions for unvaccinated residents located in areas that still has high rate of COVID-19 cases and lower number of vaccinated residents.

The new guidelines given by Cuomo also replaced the order given last February 23, requiring facilities to be COVID-19 free for at least 14 days straight before allowing families to visit. This guidelines was obviously difficult to attain with most nursing homes in the state continuously reporting to sporadic cases among residents or staff.

Cuomo said, “We now have three effective vaccines that are leading to significant decreases in long-term care COVID cases and a robust staff testing system to limit community spread from entering a facility.”

The governor added, “Now is an appropriate time to take the next step and safely reconnect this community with their families.”

The decision also comes at the same time when grieving families conducted events and vigils to honor over 15,000 residents in nursing homes and senior facilities who died from COVID-19 over the past year.

Family members of residents criticized Cuomo administration for the controversial directive given last year, March 25, 2020 which allegedly required nursing homes to take in recovering COVID-19 positive patients discharged from hospitals.

According to critics this directive given by Cuomo worsened infections and deaths of elderly residents.

Cuomo has been facing mutiple scandals. He is also under state and federal investigation over the nursing home directive and the claims of sexual harassment.

Then, just last week, Cuomo was lambasted by yet another probe over disturbing reports of power-play where he allegedly used his position to improperly prioritize COVID-19 tests for his relatives and favored officials at the height of the pandemic in the state. A Cuomo spokesman denied wrongdoing but did not dispute the early access to testing.

Zayas added, “We’re surprised Cuomo is still in office.” She continued, “Our resolve to see this through is still strong — of Cuomo being impeached or resigning. We want Cuomo held accountable at the federal level and the state level.”

Meanwhile, the New York Governor has consistently denied his fault in handling nursing homes during the pandemic. Cuomo also defended that the number of COVID-positive cases in nursing homes has declined by over 80% since the peach in mid-January during the second wave of COVID-19 surge.