5 things to know about NY Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s coronavirus nursing home controversy

Critics say Cuomo's directive may have led to higher fatalities among vulnerable populations

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo is among many state leaders working to quell rising positive cases of the novel coronavirus as the holiday season approaches, though the New York Democrat has faced some criticism over how he has handled the pandemic in certain situations.

New York was the epicenter of the domestic outbreak in the early spring, bearing the brunt of cases as the country grappled with the disease and experts raced to share more details on transmissibility, symptoms and prevention methods.

Since then, cases in the Empire State have dropped dramatically – and still remain among the lowest in the U.S.

Despite praise for flattening the curve, one of the controversies in the state was Cuomo’s regulations regarding nursing home patients, which some argue may have contributed to a large number of fatalities among vulnerable, elderly populations.

Here’s what to know about the directive:

The order

On March 25, Cuomo issued a directive that required nursing homes to accept COVID-positive patients released from hospitals. It also required that the facility ensure that it could adequately care for those individuals while protecting other residents.

The idea was anticipatory, looking at a scenario where hospitals became overwhelmed and were forced to discharge patients to go back to nursing homes.

The updated guidance

The directive was reversed in May, when Cuomo said hospitals cannot send patients back to nursing homes unless they have tested negative.

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In line with government guidelines

Cuomo has said the original directive was in line with guidance from the Trump administration's Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) and Centers from Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) that went out to all states on how to control infections in nursing homes. The guidance said "nursing homes should admit any individuals that they would normally admit to their facility, including individuals from hospitals where a case of COVID-19 was/is present."

Defending his position

As recently as September, Cuomo has said the state’s nursing home deaths were not related to the order, but instead the result of infections brought in by staff or family members before officials were even aware the virus was circulating in the state.  And from there, community spread led to infections among the populations, which were particularly vulnerable to the virus.

Cuomo also said the order never truly came into effect because the state never ran out of hospital beds and capacity.

However, ProPublica combed through state-released data to show that 58 nursing homes did not have a sick resident or staff member prior to the arrival of a positive patient from a hospital.

Nursing home deaths

Cuomo has taken heat because the state has seen many nursing home deaths related to the virus.

The state only counts deaths that occurred in the nursing home facility itself, and not patients who were transferred to a hospital and then died, so critics argue the death toll is likely much higher.

As of late summer, there were 6,600 deaths that occurred on nursing home properties, as reported by the Associated Press.

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Fox News’ Gregg Re contributed to this report.