Opinion | Another Cuomo Cover-Up?

Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D., N.Y.) at a Covid-19 vaccination site in Brooklyn on Monday.



Photo:

Seth Wenig/Associated Press

At last, Joe Biden,

Anthony Fauci

and CNN are no longer presenting New York Democrat

Andrew Cuomo

as the model governor in pandemic response. The question now is how many lives were lost due to his reckless policy of forcing vulnerable populations to accept greater risk of infection—and then hiding the results. Nursing homes were not the only places forced to accept Covid-positive patients.

Maria McFadden Maffucci writes at National Review: “Cuomo’s edicts put another vulnerable population in inexcusable peril: New Yorkers with intellectual and developmental disabilities (IDD) living in group homes.” Ms. Maffucci writes:

You know that notorious March 25 order, sending contagious nursing-home patients back to their homes from hospitals? Well, it had a twin. An April 10 memo from the Office of People with Developmental Disabilities (OPWDD) to operators of certified residential facilities had identical language to the nursing-home memo, to wit: “No individual shall be denied re-admission or admission to a Certified Residential Facility based solely on a confirmed or suspected diagnosis of Covid-19. . . . Additionally, providers of Certified Residential Facilities are prohibited from requiring a hospitalized individual, who is determined medically stable, to be tested for [Covid-19] prior to admission or readmission.”

Guess how that worked out for disabled New Yorkers. As is Cuomo custom, the state government withheld crucial information from public disclosure. Therefore scientists and policy makers had to try to make sense of limited data. Ms. Maffucci says that researchers often had to rely on voluntary reporting from advocacy organizations.

The available data told another highly disturbing story. Last year a study in Disability and Health Journal titled “COVID-19 outcomes among people with intellectual and developmental disabilities living in residential homes in New York state” reported some dismal statistics:

People with IDD living in residential group homes were at greater risk of severe COVID-19 outcomes: case rates – 7,841 per 100,000 for people with IDD compared to 1,910 for New York State; case-fatality – 15.0% for people with IDD compared to 7.9% for New York State; and mortality rate – 1,175 per 100,000 for people with IDD compared to 151 per 100,000 for New York State.

If the Cuomo government ever allows a full accounting, perhaps researchers can estimate the precise impact of the directive to facilities on accepting Covid-positive patients.

The overall policy may live forever in the annals of bureaucratic cruelty. At the same time the Cuomo administration was turning down offers to expand treatment space for Covid patients—and instead forcing them into group homes, raising the risks for disabled residents there—Team Cuomo was also severely limiting family visits at such facilities. In other words, official Cuomo administration policy required people with disabilities to accept both greater risk of infection by strangers and less time with relatives. Last July James Bernstein wrote in Long Island’s Long Beach Herald:

On Father’s Day this year, Dan Mulvaney used his [iPad] to tap out a note to his mother in Long Beach: “How long until I’m free…unfair…I’m ok. Ask state. So tired of lockdown…make change for all.”

…Mulvaney is autistic, and lives with three others in a group home in Baldwin. Since the coronavirus pandemic, he and all the others in homes for the developmentally-disabled on Long Island and across the state, have been living under strong restrictions, their relatives say.

Only since Father’s Day weekend have the group home residents been allowed to receive visitors, for 30 minutes only… Before, no visits were allowed, and the residents were permitted outside only in the company of an aide, for a walk down the block.

The added bureaucratic insanity of this situation was that Mr. Mulvaney had already been infected and had already recovered from Covid. Yet state policy was still restricting his mobility and ability to see loved ones. Of course he was not the only one forced to endure a terrible isolation. The Herald’s Mr. Bernstein reported on another family:

… all Lloyd Groveman of Old Westbury knows is that the restrictions have been hard on his son, Jack, 18, who is autistic and lives in a group home In Lido Beach.

“He doesn’t understand the concept” of the restrictions, Groveman said. “It is cruel and unusual circumstances.” Groveman said that in the months of the pandemic, he has been able to see his son only twice. When he did see his son, Groveman said, “He would run to the window. He was happy to see us. He wants to leave” the house.

Ms. Maffucci notes that during that same month the Cuomo administration finally issued less restrictive rules. But the resistance to public disclosure continued.

“Why Such Secrecy?,” asked a headline in the Albany Times-Union in November. The newspaper editorialized:

Last week, an advocacy group, Disability Rights New York, filed suit to get long-delayed information from the Office of People with Developmental Disabilities on how many group home residents and staff have been infected with or died from the virus — a delay the group said hampers the ability to minimize the risk of infection in a vulnerable population and assess the state’s efforts to protect it.

At a time when residents and businesses are being called to a common fight to slow the coronavirus’ spread, the state’s selective secrecy only feeds and validates the speculation that there are things the Cuomo administration is purposely trying to hide — in particular, that it’s not necessarily living up to its tough standards for employers and high-minded talk of a shared burden.

When will a tough standard be applied to Mr. Cuomo, who imposed some of the country’s most dangerous burdens and then prevented the public from learning about the resulting destruction?

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Mr. Freeman is the co-author of “The Cost: Trump, China and American Revival.”

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(Teresa Vozzo helps compile Best of the Web.)

***

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