Cuomo Nursing Home Hearings

Protests Virtually Unreported

Cuomo’s Death Machine

Zucker Continues to Lie

When Can Family Visit Nursing Homes?

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August 4, 2020 — Yesterday the New York legislative body in Albany held hearings on the nursing home debacle that caused 6,000 to possibly 12,000 deaths headed by Governor Cuomo and NY Health Commissioner Dr. Howard Zucker. Protests of over 1,000 people happened outside of the Capitol on State St. with multiple speakers including whistleblower Nurse Erin Marie Olszewski.

Nurse Erin Marie is a major danger to Governor Cuomo as she is exposing the malpractice that turned Elmhurst Hospital in Queens, NY into a death factory during the COVID crisis. When Nurse Erin Marie stepped up to speak, New York Activist Rita Palma’s Facebook live stream went completely dead after running with no problem for 30 minutes recording all of the speakers who went before her. This seems to be another account of Facebook censoring voices for medical freedom. Eventually event organizers were able to publish her speech in full and you can view that here.

24 hours later the protest barely made the mainstream news. Spectrum mentioned the protest in the fifth paragraph of a report titled Cuomo Decries the Politics of the Pandemic.

Zucker Lies About Death Order

New York State Health Commissioner Dr. Howard Zucker was questioned by members of the Senate and Assembly regarding why as many as 12,000 nursing home seniors died during the COVID crisis. Zucker refused to provide an updated, accurate number of nursing home residents who died of COVID during the hearing.

On March 25th Cuomo & Zucker released guidance to nursing homes stating, “No resident shall be denied readmission or admission to the (nursing home) solely based on a confirmed or suspected diagnosis of COVID-19. (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.”

Many have called this order a death sentence for thousands of seniors in nursing homes.

According to Newsday’s coverage of the hearing, Zucker said the above guidance was not mandatory. But obviously the wording of this directive was so incredibly strong what nursing home administrator would go against Cuomo during an unprecedented pandemic? Zucker went on to state the above guidance given on March 25th was not responsible for the massive amount of deaths in nursing homes. Newsday reported Zucker argued “the (health) department’s research of antibodies shows the peak of deaths could be attributed to infections before March 25 carried by staff and visitors who showed no symptoms at the time.”

There are two major problems with Zucker’s position here:

  1. Asymptomatic transmission of the novel coronavirus has been proven to be “extremely rare,” even according to the World Health Organization (WHO)
  2. Antibody testing have shown to be remarkably flawed, and the data they provide is extremely unreliable.

Zucker should be very aware that on June 11th WHO announced that asymptomatic transmission of the novel coronavirus is “extremely rare,” especially since he used to work for WHO. Is Zucker making the remarkably outlandish claim that 6,000 to 12,000 nursing home residents all died from an “extremely rare” form of transmission? It makes far more sense that seniors with symptoms of COVID that nursing homes were forced to house due to the March 25th order from Zucker were the source of infection.

To quote certified nurse and nursing home staffer Nicole Whittaker speaking to Spectrum news, “Masks were issued, but were being worn for too long,” she said. “We lost a significant number of residents, and many of these deaths could have been prevented. Residents with symptoms should have been isolated immediately, not after more than a month of infections.” (emphasis added)

Expert Witnesses

In the afternoon two witnesses were questioned. Michael A.L. Balboni, who is the Executive Director of Greater New York Health Care Facilities Association, and Neil Heyman, President of the Southern New York Association. Below are some of the highlights from the afternoon questions that came from Senator James Skoufis, Assemblyman John McDonald, Senator Gustavo Rivera, Assemblyman Ron Kim, Senator Sue Serino, Assemblyman Kevin Byrne and Assemblyman Tom Abinnanit. Here are the highlights from those questions

Senator James Skoufis asked if it was a lack of PPE that was “the primary driver” of infection in nursing homes. Balboni responded, “It is very difficult to be able to identify the exact mode of transmission” and that it was a combination of a lot of factors. Skoufis followed up by saying, “But this was at the top of the list?” Balboni said they believed it played a role, but never verbally agreed with Skoufis that this was the main cause of infection. To me it felt like Skoufis was searching for a “get-out-of-jail” card for Cuomo and Zucker. He didn’t get it.

Assemblyman John T. McDonald had environmental questions. He discussed relative humidity of air inside of a building as potentially playing a major role in how actively the virus could be transmitted. He asked if there is humidity testing in the nursing homes. Both Balboni and Heyman said there is not. Balboni said there could be an introduction of UV light in the ventilation systems to neutralize viruses. These are all valid concerns as we know respiratory viruses are mostly transmitted as aerosolized particles in the air. We have thus far been told that the novel coronavirus is only transmitted through droplets, however there are hundreds of scientists who disagree with this and believe the virus is airborne.

Senator Gustavo Rivera, chairman of the Senate Health Committee, asked about how nursing home deaths were reported. This is a crucial point that we must get an answer to in order to know the total number of seniors who died. Balboni said they followed the guidelines in the “HERD” survey (I don’t know what survey that is) and they didn’t take a look at deaths outside of the guidance on that survey. Balboni said the challenge is determining the cause of death. The medical examiners don’t determine the cause of death but rather the clinicians do, and there is “subjectivity.” Balboni echoed a very important point that the Medical Freedom community has been saying for months. There is no way to pin point and say what the precise reason is that someone died. If someone had emphysema for 20 years, contracted coronavirus and then died, we cannot say what precisely killed them.

This is correct, and goes directly against the CDC guidance telling clinicians to presume COVID as the cause of death for death certificates. I appreciate Balboni’s honesty on this.

Assemblyman Ron Kim was up next and said when he surveyed nursing homes they told him they only heard from the New York Department of Health (NYDOH) when the department wanted updated death count numbers. He stated that Cuomo provided legal indemnity to protect frontline workers, but also gave blanket immunity to all health care administrators. Kim asked Balboni and Heyman if they had lobbied for that indemnification, both said no, they did not. Balboni went on to make the point that health care providers are legally required to provide a “reasonable standard of care” to their patients, but that during a pandemic the definition of “reasonable standard of care” changes. Kim asked, “Are we better prepared now?” Both men said “Yes.” Kim gave a thumbs up, and that was it (his time ran out).

Senator Sue Serino asked such softball questions I am not going to report on them. I would have thought a Republican would have grilled harder and deeper, but she did not.

Assemblyman Kevin Byrne brought up an important topic – vacancy rates at nursing homes. Neil stated the increase in vacancy was directly related to the stopping of elected surgery. Elected surgery releases is the biggest driver of nursing home occupancy. Think of someone getting a hip replacement and then moving into a nursing home for the first time. Balboni said this is the next crisis coming in long term care. Currently nursing homes are barely making payroll. There were residents who were in nursing homes for the past 10 years who left and they are not coming back any time soon. Nursing homes face an incredible struggle to keep their doors open. Byrne asked if vacancy rates are dropping now? The answer is no. The fact that people can’t visit loved ones in nursing homes is stopping people from becoming residents. “We’ve never seen this before,” said Balboni, and it is a budding crisis that could cause nursing homes to shutdown.

Assemblyman Tom Abinanti focused on getting family members back in to nursing homes to visit loved ones. Abinanti sated family members are not visitors they should be viewed as part of the staff, part of the treatment for the senior in the nursing home. Balboni agreed with this. Abinanti asked if they had a plan to bring back visitors. Neil said that there is no plan at this time. Everyone is focused and concerned with caution. Balboni said he is confident that the ‘individual facillities’ can come up with plans to bring family visitors back safely. Abinanti asked if they had any numbers to show what the transmission risk was fromfamily members? They did not have any data on that subject.

This coverage is not comprehensive of the entire all-day hearing. Stay tuned to this blog as I will be publishing as much as possible regarding this hearing, and the upcoming hearing next week focused on nursing home deaths that occurred in upstate New York.

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