NY nursing home whistleblower: Cuomo's order to take coronavirus patients back into nursing homes was "ridiculous"
A whistleblower working at a nursing home in New York said he knew Gov. Andrew Cuomo's order to take Wuhan coronavirus (COVID-19) patients back into the vulnerable long-term care facilities was "ridiculous" and warned officials against pushing through with it
Michael Kraus, administrator of the Silver Lakes Specialized Care Center in Staten Island, told Fox News
on Thursday, Mar. 18, that his staff was "petrified" by the governor's order
Many other nursing home officials complained at the time that Cuomo's policy could help spread the coronavirus. Kraus himself made his concerns clear during a conference call
on March 25 last year – the same day Cuomo issued the order. He told other nursing home directors, hospital leaders and state officials about the potential consequences of pushing through with Cuomo's plan. (Related: Cuomo aide allegedly involved in hiding nursing home death count taught "ethics in government" law school class
"My position from the get-go was: We can't do it," said Kraus during his appearance on Fox News
"I said, 'That's ridiculous.' Everyone heard about the story that happened in Washington State. And you know, that was enough for me to understand I can't put these people at risk. We can't be doing this. It's just not right for the residents."
"And you vocalized that on these phone conversations?" asked Fox News
correspondent Aishah Hasnie.
"I did vocalize it. And then once it was shot down, I never spoke again," replied Kraus. "There are more important people than me who thought it was a good idea."
When asked who rejected Kraus' objections, the nursing home administrator said he did not know because it was a conference call, and he couldn't recognize the voice of the person who shot it down.
Kraus said other nursing home administrators were similarly "petrified" at the prospect of admitting discharged COVID-19 patients, but they kept quiet because "they were more petrified of the Department of Health
More than 15,000 people have died in nursing homes and long-term care facilities in New York. But as recently as January, the official announcement from the state only reported a fraction of this number – around 8,500 deaths.
Cuomo rescinded the order to send coronavirus patients to nursing homes in May 2020. But by that time, more than 9,000 recovering patients had already been sent to nursing homes.
The governor has repeatedly tried to deflect criticisms and accusations that he did not do enough to protect nursing home workers and residents from the virus. He argued that everything he has done has been in compliance with federal guidelines.
This issue made national headlines in February when Melissa DeRosa, a top aide working in the governor's office, told Democratic state lawmakers that Cuomo had withheld the truth regarding the death toll in nursing homes because they did not want the administration of then-President Donald Trump to launch a federal investigation.
Democrats feared that such an investigation would have ruined the chances of the Democratic Party winning in the election.
Both the New York Times
and the Wall Street Journal
have reported that top aides within the governor's administration pressured health officials over the summer last year to remove data from multiple reports that would show the number of nursing home deaths related to COVID-19. The Brooklyn U.S. Attorney's Office and the Federal Bureau of Investigation
are reportedly investigating the matter.
Kraus was punished for speaking up and refusing to follow Cuomo's order
When Cuomo's order was in place, Kraus said his facility experienced a severe shortage in personal protective equipment (PPE) because his supplier was "not allowed to send us our full order."
"They were guided, they must sell to the hospital first," said Kraus. "So, we were rationed. If we would order a large order, they would give us 20 percent. And they just said they weren't allowed to sell us more."
Faced with the shortage of PPEs and the other challenges his nursing home faced during the pandemic, Kraus said he "went with his gut" and locked down the facility for 10 straight weeks. He took back his previous patients, but he refused to take in any new admissions.
This decision made him and Silver Lake even less popular among health officials in New York. When he would turn away COVID-19 patients, administrators and other officials would call him to beg him not to send sick patients back.
"There were multiple hospitals that were threatening [us]," said Kraus.
Silver Lake has reported only two confirmed coronavirus deaths. Another six people from Silver Lake died outside the nursing home while another 37 were presumed to have died from the coronavirus but have not been confirmed.
Learn more about how New York handled the coronavirus pandemic by reading the latest articles at Pandemic.news