Home Cuomo administration is ordering homes for disabled to accept COVID patients

Cuomo administration is ordering homes for disabled to accept COVID patients


It wasn’t just nursing homes.

The Cuomo administration has spent the last year quietly allowing COVID-19 patients to return to homes for the disabled — much like it did with nursing homes — and the policy remains in effect.

The state’s Office for People With Developmental Disabilities (OPWDD) issued a directive on April 10 barring the group homes from denying admission or re-admission to someone “based solely on a confirmed or suspected diagnosis of COVID-19.”

The order also prohibits the facilities from requiring that a hospitalized individual be tested for COVID-19 before being admitted or re-admitted.

At least 552 residents of such homes have died of the virus as of Wednesday. More than 6,900 out of the more than 34,552 who live in the facilities have been infected, the agency said.

The guidance is similar to the controversial state Health Department order issued in the early days of the pandemic that required nursing homes to accept recovering COVID-19 patients from hospitals.

The Cuomo administration has faced mounting criticism that the later-rescinded March 25 policy directive fueled outbreaks in hard-hit nursing homes. The governor has claimed that the policy followed federal guidance.

Unlike the nursing home directive, the April 10 memo to homes for people with developmental disabilities is still in effect, the OPWDD told Fox News on Monday.

State politicians have recently expressed concern about the directive.

Republican members of the state Senate Committees on Disabilities & Mental Health last month sent a letter to OPWDD Commissioner Dr. Theodore Kastner asking for updated numbers on COVID-19 deaths and infections.

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo
Gov. Andrew Cuomo at a vaccination site on March 8, 2021.
Seth Wenig/AP, Pool

“I am deeply concerned that the April 10th order from OPWDD needlessly put some of our most vulnerable citizens in harm’s way,” GOP State Sen. Mike Martucci, a ranking member of the committee, said in a Feb. 25 statement.

“Close on the heels of the deadly nursing home order from the Department of Health (DOH), this order appears both dangerous and tone deaf,” Martucci said. “Transparency has been a major failing of this administration at all levels.”

State Assemblyman Tom Abinanti, a Democrat from Tarrytown, last week sent a letter to Health Department Commissioner Howard Zucker asking for information about the OPWDD directive.

“Why is this directive still in effect and why has it not been modified?” he asked in the letter, which was obtained by The Post.

Abinanti said he hasn’t heard from anyone at the state level since he send the letter on March 4, noting, “ignoring us is typical of the Cuomo administration and makes everyone suspicious that they’re covering something up.”

“It’s discrimination against people will disabilities and exhibiting a total lack of care of those with disabilities,” he told The Post on Thursday about the directive.

An OPWDD spokeswoman said in a statement that “Residents of OPWDD group homes who were sent to the hospital for COVID-19 treatment were returned to their homes after being deemed safe to return by the hospital physician, in consultation with the residential provider.

“Group home providers were only to accept individuals if they could safely accommodate them within the group home through measures required by DOH guidance like cohorting, cleaning and social distancing,” the statement said.

Residents who couldn’t be “safely accommodated” either stayed at the hospital or “were served in one of the over 100 temporary sites established for COVID-19 recovery efforts in partnership with OPWDD provider agencies,” the statement said.

Medical personnel move patients in a bustling hallway in the emergency department during the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic at Mount Sinai South Nassau Hospital
Medical personnel move patients in the ER at Mount Sinai South Nassau Hospital on April 13, 2020.
Jeffrey Basinger/Newsday via Getty Images



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