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Gov. Cuomo falsely claims New York nursing homes ‘never needed’ to take in Covid-positive patients

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo said that nursing homes “never needed” to accept Covid-positive patients from hospitals in the state due to a shortage of hospital beds.



Andrew Cuomo wearing a suit and tie: NEW YORK, NY - JULY 23: New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo speaks during the daily media briefing at the Office of the Governor of the State of New York on July 23, 2020 in New York City. The Governor said the state liquor authority has suspended 27 bar and restaurant alcohol licenses for violations of social distancing rules as public officials try to keep the coronavirus outbreak under control. (Photo by Jeenah Moon/Getty Images)


© Jeenah Moon/Getty Images North America/Getty Images
NEW YORK, NY – JULY 23: New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo speaks during the daily media briefing at the Office of the Governor of the State of New York on July 23, 2020 in New York City. The Governor said the state liquor authority has suspended 27 bar and restaurant alcohol licenses for violations of social distancing rules as public officials try to keep the coronavirus outbreak under control. (Photo by Jeenah Moon/Getty Images)

During a press call Wednesday, Finger Lakes News Radio asked Cuomo about his administration’s advisory in late March requiring that nursing homes accept the readmission of patients from hospitals, even if they were positive for Covid-19.

The governor’s office has repeatedly said the advisory was based on federal guidance, which prohibited discrimination based on a coronavirus diagnosis. The state’s Department of Health told CNN, “Residents were admitted to nursing homes during that time not as an overflow facility, but because that’s where they live.”

Cuomo said that the advisory was a precaution if hospitals became overwhelmed — calling it an “anticipatory rule” — which he said didn’t happen.

“We never needed nursing home beds because we always had hospital beds,” Cuomo told Finger Lakes News. “So it just never happened in New York where we needed to say to a nursing home, ‘We need you to take this person even though they’re Covid-positive.’ It never happened.”

Facts First: Cuomo’s assertion that “it never happened” is false. According to a report from the New York State Department of Health, “6,326 COVID-positive residents were admitted to [nursing home] facilities” following Cuomo’s mandate that nursing homes accept the readmission of Covid-positive patients from hospitals. Whether or not this was “needed,” it did in fact happen.

Cuomo’s senior adviser Rich Azzarpodi replied Thursday after publication and took issue with this determination, saying that the governor was specifically referencing the hospital bed shortage. “The governor was crystal clear, he was saying that what did not materialize was the crunch for hospital beds, that every projection especially the federal governments projections predicted was going to happen. That’s what he said never happened. Separately the law has always been that nursing homes could only accept residents that they could adequately care for. None of that has changed.”

On March 25, the state’s Health Department issued an advisory requiring nursing homes to accept “the expedited receipt of residents returning from hospitals” if the patients were deemed medically stable.

“No resident shall be denied re-admission or admission to the [nursing home] solely based on a confirmed or suspected diagnosis of COVID-19,” the advisory stated. “[Nursing homes] are prohibited from requiring a hospitalized resident who is determined medically stable to be tested for COVID-19 prior to admission or readmission.”

This mandate received a great deal of criticism, and Cuomo issued an

Trump says he wears masks “when needed” and mocks Biden’s masks

President Trump touted his response to the coronavirus pandemic in his first debate with former Vice President Joe Biden and defended his decision to often appear in public without a facial covering, explaining that he wears a mask “when needed.”

“I think masks are okay,” Mr. Trump said, when asked why moderator Chris Wallace why he typically appears in public without wearing a mask. He pulled out a mask from his suit jacket to show that he carried it with him.

“I put a mask on, you know, when I think I need it. Tonight is an example, everybody has had a test,” Mr. Trump said. “I wear a mask when needed. When needed, I wear masks.”

The president also mocked Biden for wearing a mask every time he appears in public. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that people wear masks in public to help mitigate the spread of the virus.

“I don’t wear masks like him. Every time you see him, he’s got a mask,” Mr. Trump said, adding that Biden “could be speaking 200 feet away” and then “shows up with the biggest mask I’ve ever seen.”

Mr. Trump also defended his decision to hold large campaign rallies where there is limited social distancing and wearing a mask is not enforced. He noted that many of the rallies are held outside, which is considered to be safer than holding indoor events.

“People want to hear what I have to say,” Mr. Trump said, claiming that more people want to see him than Biden.

Biden also criticized Mr. Trump’s general response to the pandemic, which has claimed the lives of more than 200,000 Americans.

“The president has no plan. He hasn’t laid out anything. He knew all the way back in February how serious this crisis was,” Biden said, seemingly referring to when Mr. Trump told journalist Bob Woodward in February that the virus was “deadly stuff” while downplaying the risks in public.

Biden said that if he were president, he would ensure that hospitals had the equipment necessary to treat patients and protect health care workers, and that schools were properly funded.

Mr. Trump touted his decision to restrict travel from China at the end of January, claiming that it saved millions of lives.

“It’s China’s fault, it should have never happened,” Mr. Trump said, adding that he had received praise from governors as doing a “phenomenal job.”

“Many of your Democrat governors said President Trump did a phenomenal job,” Mr. Trump claimed. He also claimed that  “we’re weeks away from a vaccine,” and said that “far fewer people are dying.”

He praised his administration’s response to the coronavirus, claiming that the press was trying to undermine him.

“It’s just fake news. They give you good press, and give me bad press,” Mr. Trump said, referring to Biden. “I’ll tell you, Joe, you could’ve never done the job that we did.”

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A suicidal teen needed help. In Alabama, she found only hurdles

On Sept. 24, 2019, Gina Moses received an unusual phone call from her teenage daughter. The girl was on vacation in Las Vegas and wanted her health insurance information.

When Moses asked why, everything tumbled out: The fight with her boyfriend, the suicide attempt and the trip to the emergency room. She called her mom from the hospital bed.

“She begged me to come get her,” Moses said. “She told me that she just wanted to come home.”

Moses lives in Albertville with her husband and two younger children. Within hours, she was on her way to Nevada.

“I stop and breathe and then pray for my daughter and for our family,” Moses wrote in a journal. “I pray for a safe trip to Vegas. I pray that I handle this in the right way to where it doesn’t affect the little ones.”

Moses and the teen spent the night in the same downtown Las Vegas hotel room where her daughter tried to take her life. When the boyfriend came back, the teen changed her mind about returning to Alabama.

“At that point, I realized just how delusional she was,” Moses said. “It was like she didn’t realize I had just flown all the way across the country to take her home.”

In Alabama, the daughter’s therapist said she would need residential treatment to learn how to subdue self-destructive thoughts. Under Moses’ insurance plan, the family’s out-of-pocket costs capped out at $875.

Then a problem emerged. Although the insurance plan covered residential mental health treatment, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Alabama wouldn’t approve payment for the types of private programs the girl’s therapist recommended.

Her issues mirror those of other insurance customers nationwide who struggle to get access to mental health benefits, in spite of two federal laws passed to make it easier to get coverage. Such challenges have persisted despite rising rates of suicide across the nation and in Alabama.

In Alabama, suicide is the second leading cause of death for people in their teens and early twenties, according to the Alabama Department of Public Health.

Alabama also has the nation’s smallest mental health workforce per capita, according to the United Health Foundation, and the least competitive insurance market. Blue Cross Blue Shield of Alabama covers nearly 3 million people, or 86 percent of the private insurance market in the state, according to the American Medical Association. That leaves Alabamians with few options for care and coverage of life-threatening mental illness.

“Do I think we would have had a second suicide attempt if we had been able to get residential treatment the first time around?” Moses asked. “No. She would have been there six months and she would have been over it.”

Guidelines and gatekeepers

Blue Cross Blue Shield of Alabama uses Kansas-based New Directions Behavioral Health to manage its mental health network and benefits.

New Directions acts as the gatekeeper for several Blue Cross plans, said Meiram Bendat, a California attorney involved in a lawsuit against the company.