(The Center Square) – As New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo continues to receive criticism over the COVID-19 nursing home scandal plaguing his administration, he announced Friday a series of reforms he wants to see in the for-profit sector of the industry.
Cuomo included the reform plan in an amendment to the budget. Among the items in it include requiring facilities to post rates per payer source online, increasing civil penalties to $25,000 for violations of law, instituting a “salary cap” for management and mandating nursing homes spend at least 70 percent of their revenue on direct patient care.
“I will not sign the budget without this nursing home reform plan, period,” the governor said.
The announcement came as the governor yet again defended how his administration handled the issue, in which a bipartisan group of lawmakers claims it withheld information on the number of COVID-19 deaths attributable to nursing homes.
The governor told reporters again that he wished he would have realized how big an issue it was and vowed to fight back against anyone or any outlet that he told lies about what happened and what his administration did.
“Most people would not say that one of my errors is lack of aggressiveness, but in truth, I was not aggressive enough in fighting back against these crazy political theories and these crazy political opponents,” Cuomo said. “I have developed an immunity to them, right? You have to remember, I went through this with Donald Trump.”
He said it was the former president who instigated this, having his Department of Justice initiate an investigation against New York as well as New Jersey, Michigan and Pennsylvania, three other states run by Democrats.
It was that federal inquiry that Cuomo has said forced his administration to hold off on providing information to state lawmakers. That has since caused bickering between legislators and the administration over who was told what and when.
Cuomo also gave state Health Commissioner Dr. Howard Zucker time during Friday’s briefing to defend the New York State Department of Health.
Speaking for about 10 minutes, Zucker repeated the claim that the administration was only following federal guidance in directing nursing homes to take COVID-positive individuals. He also said there were 132 facilities that did not take a hospital patient, but still, they reported fatalities as well.
In addition, the state is still seeing the same rate of nursing home fatalities now as it did before and after the March 25 directive to nursing homes.
“March 25th was not the driver of COVID infections,” Zucker said. “It was not the driver of COVID fatalities.”
As Cuomo and Zucker spoke, U.S. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez released a statement saying she also calls for an investigation into how the administration handled the nursing home matter and a “return to co-equal” government.
“Thousands of vulnerable New Yorkers lost their lives in nursing homes throughout the pandemic,” she said. “Their loved ones and the public deserve answers and transparency from their elected leadership, and the Secretary to the Governor’s remarks warrant a full investigation.”