New York tries to silently scrub Gov. Cuomo’s March nursing home mandate from health department website

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ALBANY, NY – Apparently, the New York state Department of Health website tried to cover up the remnants of Governor Andrew Cuomo’s March 25th order that forced nursing homes to admit COVID patients into the facilities.

However, the internet always leaves a trace, no matter what.

The webpage that once contained the March orders from the governor’s office about nursing homes being required to take in recent COVID patients has mysteriously vanished.

Obviously, there’s not much mystery to it, as it was clearly taken down after the backlash received over the confusing mandate delivered while the elderly were cited as being most vulnerable to the virus.

While Governor Cuomo at least amended the decision on compelling nursing homes to admit recent COVID patients, it wasn’t fixed until early May. Giving over a month’s time for the virus to wreak havoc in the likes of elderly care facilities not medically poised to deal with a sudden increase in infected patients.

Even though the webpage appears to have been scrubbed on or after May 5th, an archived version of the page still exists – thanks to the Wayback Machine. Thus, the bizarre order given in late March by Governor Cuomo can be forever referenced by those curious as to what he was thinking on March 25th.

The original order carried such quotable gems, like the following:

“No resident shall be denied re-admission or admission to the [nursing home] solely based on a confirmed or suspected diagnosis of COVID-19. NHs are prohibited from requiring a hospitalized resident who is determined medically stable to be tested for COVID-19 prior to admission or readmission.”

What was perhaps the most troubling from that delivered order was the portion related to saying nursing homes couldn’t even test those recently released by hospitals for COVID.

Effectively, not allowing the facilities to be able to appropriately address recently released patients who may have been still positive for the virus.

Elaine Mazzotta is a nurse who recently had her mother pass away from a suspected COVID case inside of a Long Island nursing home where she resided. She thinks the manner that the state handled nursing home admissions was “negligent”:

“The way this has been handled by the state is totally irresponsible, negligent and stupid. They knew better. They shouldn’t have sent these people into nursing homes.”

Governor Cuomo’s office defended their March 25th order by saying they were simply following the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services guidelines published on March 13th. Melissa DeRosa, Governor Cuomo’s secretary, referenced this portion of the March 13th memorandum:

“Note: 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. Also, if possible, dedicate a unit/wing exclusively for any residents coming or returning from the hospital.”

When the secretary to the governor pointed out the following, she managed to somehow intertwine President Trump into the citation:

“Not ‘could’. ‘Should’. That is President Trump’s CMS and CDC… There are over a dozen states that did the exact same thing.”

However, there’s two glaring holes in the “logic” provided by DeRosa pointing to the March 13th memo issued by the CMS and over a “dozen states” who followed the aforementioned.

The first being is that the memo said “should” while Cuomo’s March 25th order forced nursing homes to accept COVID patients. One is a suggestion by the CMS, and Cuomo’s was a mandate.

Big difference.

Not to mention, the CMS memo didn’t mention anything about not testing incoming residents to nursing homes, while Cuomo’s order barred nursing homes from being able to administer tests for COVID to incoming residents returning from the hospital.

As for the “dozen” other states that followed the suggestions laid out by the CMS, no other state comes close to New York in terms of rates of infection and mortality regarding the virus. Not exactly a very good comparison.

In the meantime, a hospital that was opened in Brooklyn in response to COVID-19, that cost roughly $21 million, is closing down after having seen zero patients since it was opened up.

The 750-bed facility was put together in rush after Mayor Bill de Blasio announced the plan to establish it on March 31st, but it seems like it was all a waste of taxpayer money.

The March 31st announcement of the planned conversion of the Brooklyn Cruise Terminal into a medical facility followed one day after the arrival of USNS Comfort in the New York Harbor. The work was contracted out to a Texas-based construction company to get the ball rolling on the conversion.

That late-March announcement by de Blasio was in line with plans to establish numerous conversions throughout the city:

“They are going to set it up rapidly and we’re then going to go to the next site, the next site, the next site to meet our goal.”

It was expected that the BCT conversion would be complete and open sometime in April, but that never came to fruition in that month.

Then, on April 30th, it was reported that the USNS Comfort hospital ship was departing the New York Harbor. That’s because in the three and a half weeks that the ship was available to treat patients suffering from the pandemic, a grand total of 182 people were treated at the ship.

Then, on May 4th, days after the USNS Comfort left due to a lack of patients needing the facility, the BCT conversion was complete. As of May 25th, the greatly-hyped Brooklyn medical center announced it saw zero patients come in for treatment.

Not a single one.

Avery Cohen, a spokesperson for the mayor’s office, stated the following about the closure of the facility:

“As part of our hospital surge, we expanded capacity at a breakneck speed, ensuring our hospital infrastructure would be prepared to handle the very worst. We did so only with a single-minded focus: saving lives.”

Cohen noted that other measures, most of which were not among the costly side, seemed to suffice in creating a manageable scenario for existing hospitals already established within the city:

“Over the past few months, social distancing, face coverings, and other precautionary measures have flattened the curve drastically, and we remain squarely on focused taking that progress even further.”

The silver lining in the closure of the BCT is that we’ve likely been spared a flurry of tone-deaf, choreographed dance videos compliments of a half-dozen or more hospital staff at a time.

LET has a private home for those who support emergency responders and veterans called LET Unity.  We reinvest the proceeds into sharing their untold stories. Click to check it out.

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In case you missed our April report pertaining to the USNS Comfort, here’s the background on the ships departure: 

After approximately three weeks of being docked at Pier 90 on the west side of Manhattan, the 1000-bed hospital dubbed the USNS Comfort will be leaving New York. According to Governor Andrew Cuomo, the navy hospital ship is no longer needed.

From a numbers perspective, turns out it arguably wasn’t needed in the first place.  

As of April 21st, the USNS Comfort had managed to treat a total of 179 patients in it’s entire time being docked at New York. When comparing that utilization to the approximate 36,000 COVID-19 hospitalizations since the onset of the virus hitting New York, it’s telling of how it really wasn’t a needed asset.

Governor Cuomo someone conceded to that notion by stated that the ship’s presence gave the state “comfort”:

“It was very good to have in case we had overflow, but I said we don’t really need the Comfort anymore. It did give us comfort, but we don’t need it anymore, so if they need to deploy that somewhere else, they should take it.”

President Donald Trump confirmed that the ship will be heading back home to its respective base in Virginia.

He noted that with the return of the ship, it can be poised to be sent out to wherever else it may be needed if that time comes:

“We’ll be bringing the ship back at the earliest time, and we’ll get it ready for its next mission, which I’m sure will be an important one also.”

For all of New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s bloviating about the lack of federal help in combating the coronavirus outbreak in his state, he conveniently disregards the fact that much of the problems New York currently faces is self-inflicted.

In April, Law Enforcement Today reported from the New York Post that the Empire State has lost 20,000 hospital beds across the last 20 years due to budget cuts and insurance overhauls, according to records and experts. The shortage has exacerbated local and state efforts to battle the pandemic.

But it’s Trump’s fault.

In 2000, New York had 73,931 licensed hospital beds until years of cuts and closures cut that number to only 53,000 by this year, according to records obtained by the New York State Nurses Association from the state Health Department and statistics provided by officials, a 28% reduction.

Last Tuesday, Gov. Andrew Cuomo said that health officials believe they need between 55,000 to 110,000 hospital beds in order to treat the expected onslaught of COVID-19 victims.

“New York has closed too many beds. They went too far,” said Judy Wessler, former head of the NY Commission on the Public’s Health System, about the 28 percent drop in beds.

But it’s Trump’s fault.

Those cutbacks in essence mean that New York has a significantly larger shortage of hospital capacity as it looks for ways to treat coronavirus victims.

“This is going to crash the health care system,” Cuomo said, while once again reiterating his request to the Trump administration that the Army Corps of Engineers be dispatched to the Empire State to help build additional hospital capacity.

Cuomo asked the de Blasio administration last Monday to identify 5,000 hospital beds for coronavirus patients—to which the city responded with a plan to provide space for 8,300 sick residents of New York.  

At the same time, Westchester County and the Long Island suburbs were asked to locate 4,000 beds.

Officials note that the coronavirus hospital space shortage will be particularly acute for intensive care cases.

The nurses union noted that the number of ICU beds in the state hasn’t increased in 20 years—there were 3,043 intensive care spots in 2000; there are currently 3,000.

But it’s Trump’s fault.

In trying to search for additional hospital space, Cuomo and other officials are looking at converting college dorms, convention centers and sporting facilities to provide the desperately needed space.

LET has a private home for those who support emergency responders and vets called LET Unity.  We reinvest the proceeds into sharing their untold stories. Click to check it out.

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New York University sent an email to students in which they were asked to clear out their dorm spaces after spring classes were moved online.

The email noted that “there are significant indications that the State, as part of its contingency planning, is looking at university dormitories as settings for overflow beds from hospitals.”

A spokesman told the New York Post in a statement that there “have been no specific requests of the university at this point, but we would want to be in a position to help if needed.”

City officials in New York also confirmed last Tuesday that they have asked state officials if they can use the Javits Convention Center in Manhattan as a medical surge facility.

Politico reported last week that the center had been suggested as a potential health facility site by Council Speaker Corey Johnson and Stephen Levin. They also suggested using Madison Square Garden into a home for ailing people.

During a radio interview last week, Johnson said:

“We’re going to have to identify places, maybe the Javits Center, maybe Madison Square Garden” that can quarantine and isolate coronavirus victims.

Levin also said:

 “If we don’t halt transmission within about a week, then we’re starting about 10-14 days after that, the hospital system will start to get overwhelmed, and it will start to get overwhelmed largely all at the same time and that’s the big issue.

You’re going to start to see emergency departments run out of beds.”

The Javits Center has 760,000 square feet of exhibition space which is normally used for events such as auto shows and the like. It is currently sitting empty, and a message on the Javits Center website noted that the center will not host any events until April 30.

Likewise, Madison Square Garden has also stopped hosting events.

Numerous cutbacks over the years in New York have led to the current shortage in hospital beds.

In 2006, former Gov. George Pataki’s Berger Commission recommended slashing 4,200 hospital beds to cut $1.5 billion from New York’s health care system. Those cuts were partially implemented.

Then four years later, former Gov. David Patterson shuttered the St. Vincent’s Hospital—which for years served New York City as is primary HIV/AIDS facility, however, was deep in red ink—this after efforts to bail out the 758-bed facility failed in 2010.

In 2013, Cuomo’s State University of New York (SUNY) cut another 500 beds in the city, when it voted to close the Long Island College Hospital in Brooklyn that same year, subsequently developing the property into housing.

At the time, SUNY  argued that it needed to make that cut in order to prop up its Downstate Medical Center, also located in Brooklyn.

By 2018, the number of licensed beds in the state of New York had dropped to 58,349.

“Focusing on closed and consolidated hospitals does nothing to help the task at hand,” said Brian Conway, spokesman for the Greater New York Hospital Association.

“All that matters is rising to the current challenge, and the hospital community is committed to doing exactly that.”

Correct, because we would never want to identify who is responsible for the current state of affairs not only in New York, but in states across the country. The lack of planning by state governments and directing money toward pet programs and projects instead of emergency preparedness. 

Report: California used to have mobile hospitals and a stockpile of ventilators; it eliminated the program.

SACRAMENTO, CA.- We have heard a lot of complaining lately; mostly from governors who are trying to blame the Trump administration for the federal government’s alleged “lack of preparedness.”

However, when we dig into the details, we find out that it was individual states, not the federal government, who apparently dropped the ball.

In this article we will examine California.

Law Enforcement Today has learned from sources that at one time, California had three 200-bed mobile hospitals that could be deployed to the scene of a crisis on flatbed trucks, with the ability to provide advanced medical care to sick and injured persons within 72 hours.

According to the San Diego Tribune, each hospital was to be the size of a football field, with a surgery ward, intensive care unit and x-ray equipment.

A huge stockpile of medical supplies would be available to medical professionals, including 50 million N95 respirators, 2,400 portable ventilators and kits to set up an additional 21,000 patient beds wherever they were needed.

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger in 2006, while citing the threat of avian flu, said that the state would invest hundreds of millions of dollars in a number of medical assets to deploy in the case of large-scale emergencies and natural disasters such as earthquakes, fires and pandemics.

“In light of the pandemic flu risk, it is absolutely a critical investment,” Schwarzenegger said at a news conference at the time. “I’m not willing to gamble with people’s safety.”

California at the time was swimming in cash and sank more than $200 million into the mobile hospital program, as well as a related Health Surge Capacity Initiative in order to stockpile medicines and medical gear.

The equipment was to be used in the event of outbreaks of infectious disease, according to both emergency management officials and state budget records.

However, in 2008 the program hit a wall—the great recession. California, as did many states experienced a vast drop in state revenues—in 2011, the administration of then Democratic governor Jerry Brown, came into office in the midst of a $26 billion deficit.

Later that year, the state cut off the money to store and maintain the stockpile of supplies and the mobile hospitals, which ended up getting defunded even before they had been used.

But it’s Trump’s fault.

As we enter another week of the coronavirus pandemic, much of that medical equipment—the ventilators, critical life-saving tools and other equipment that are in short supply—had been given to local hospitals and health agencies, according to former health officials.

But the equipment was donated without any funding to maintain them. The respirators were allowed to expire without being replaced. Yet somehow, this is all the fault of the Trump administration.

Taken together, both of these programs would have given California the opportunity to more rapidly respond as the state’s coronavirus cases exploded. The annual savings for eliminating both of these programs?

A “whopping” $5.8 million per year at the high end, according to state budget records. That amounted to a fraction of the 2011 budget, which was $129 billion.

“When you’re stretched, prevention and readiness, future needs—unfortunately that’s what gets cut,” said state Sen. Richard Pan of Sacramento, chairman of the Senate Health Committee, who fought the cuts as a first-term assemblyman.

But it’s Trump’s fault.

So, where is California at? Currently many California hospitals are being forced to ration an inadequate supply of N95 masks, and hospitals are rushing to rent ventilators in anticipation of a significant shortage as COVID-19 cases increase.

A nursing union, National Nurses United, organized a protest earlier this month due to inadequate safety equipment; in a survey, only 55% of their members said they had access to N95 masks.

LET has a private home for those who support emergency responders and veterans called LET Unity.  We reinvest the proceeds into sharing their untold stories. Click to check it out.

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Dr. Howard Backer is an emergency room physician for 26 years before becoming the state’s chief medical consultant on disaster preparedness efforts, and later associate secretary for emergency preparedness under Schwarzenegger. He spent years preparing the state for a flu pandemic and then watched as it all fell apart.

“We began doing various kinds of disaster planning around infectious agents,” he recalled. First smallpox; then anthrax; then H5N1, or bird flu; and more broadly, “pandemic influenza.”

As part of that effort, starting in 2006, he helped develop and implement the state’s drive to stockpile emergency medical resources.

After Schwarzenegger left office, Backer was then appointed by Brown to head the Emergency Medical Services Authority, which is the state agency charged with overseeing the mobile hospitals, just as they were being defunded.

“It’s the nearsightedness of political decision making,” said Backer. “If you talked to the experts, we knew that pandemics were going to come around.” Backer retired last year.

Now, with California and the rest of the country in the midst of a global pandemic, the state is ill-prepared, and the federal government is getting blamed, while the blame belongs, in part with the state.

“These supplies were exactly for this scenario,” he said.

But it’s Trump’s fault.

The Union-Tribune said that Brown refused to be interviewed concerning this matter, while officials in the state Department of Finance also declined to comment. Also, officials with the state Public Health Department also declined interviews. Guilty consciences, apparently. Or they are hiding something.

Officials in the Public Health Department did provide brief written answers regarding the equipment situation but declined to provide a full accounting.

Jennifer Lim, acting chief deputy director for the Emergency Medical Services Authority, said by email that after the mobile hospital program was defunded, it was “redesigned” by the state, with the units being converted into what she referred to as “mobile medical shelters.” One was given to the California National Guard, while the other was broken up into parts and given to local agencies. The state only retained one shelter.

“The purpose of the redesign is to modify and expand the potential uses of the equipment into general staging, stabilization and shelter capacity,” she said.

Lim acknowledged that the shelters lack “biomedical equipment and medical supplies,” so in essence the conversion of these units was essentially a downgrade.

Backer said that the units are basically high-end tents, far removed from mobile hospitals that he says could be treating at least 600 COVID-19 cases at a time today.

Aside from the mobile hospitals, the state had stockpiled enough supplies to set up 21,000 beds to provide medical care to patients in alternative care sites such as community centers and gymnasiums.

Backer noted that the state gave away some of the supplies and had even considered simply disposing of whatever they couldn’t give away. He said that he is not sure exactly what happened to all of it. The California Department of Public Health refused to say what became of the alternative care site supplies.

But it’s Trump’s fault.

Just over a week ago, Gov. Gavin Newsom said that in a worst-case scenario, 25 million residents of the Golden State could be infected with the coronavirus by mid-May. He noted that the state is scrambling to increase the inventory of 90,000 hospital beds by an additional 50,000.

President Trump ordered the 1,000 bed U.S. Navy hospital ship Mercy to go to Los Angeles to help during the crisis; it arrived last Friday.

Last Monday, Newsom said that the state will lease beds in struggling hospitals around the state, while also looking at convention centers, motels and state university dormitories for use as hospital wards. One such lease, in Daly City, could cost California as much as $3.2 million a month for 177 beds.  

Backer noted, “That’s what those alternative care sit beds were for.”

At its peak, California had more than 50 million N95 respirators in its stockpile. Due to lack of funding, that number dwindled down to the current level of about 21 million. Many were used during California’s wildfires and not replace, while others went past their expiration date.

Now the state finds itself in the middle of an urgent demand to protect healthcare workers from being infected by their patients. The Public Health Department announced that it would be releasing millions of respirator masks from the stockpile but warned that some are past their expiration date and thus “are approved for us only in limited, low-risk circumstances,” not for treating patients with COVID-19.

The department finally acknowledged that all 21 million in stockpile are past their expiration dates.

The department announce that it now had 900 ventilators “on hand” but didn’t clarify what that meant. That is 1,500 less than the original stockpile.

But it’s Trump’s fault.

California is now in the process of trying to obtain more ventilators. Private industry, always more reliable than the government, is trying to come through. Newsom said that Tesla head Elon Musk had obtained 1,000 ventilators and had them delivered to Los Angeles. The state is also trying to procure another 500 million N95 respirators on the open market.

“We don’t rush to do everything overnight to have assets sitting there for the surge,” Newsom said. “This is done in a very sequential way, and a very methodical way, and a very deliberative way.”

In 2005, when Hurricane Katrina hit, then-Gov. Schwarzenegger saw the tremendous suffering caused by the disaster, said Dr Cesar Aristeiguieta, who was his emergency medical director from 2005-2007, and is now an emergency physician in Houston.

The governor “was very concerned by the images he was seeing on TV. He wanted to do something to prepare the state for future calamities.” One such strategy was the mobile hospitals.

“They were not like a ‘M*A*S*H’ tent on TV,” said Aristeiguieta, who oversaw the startup of the program.

“They were fully insulated, HVAC-equipped, semi-permanent tents. They had ventilators, a full complement of medications, and they would roll out in 18-wheelers with [a Highway Patrol] escort. They had sleeping quarters for the staff—really comprehensive.”

They also had an emergency room, intensive care unit, operating room and surgical wards, according to state records.

California created the mobile hospital program with earthquakes in mind. The 1994 Northbridge earthquake in the San Fernando Valley resulted in 57 deaths and 9,000 injured.

The Health Surge Capacity Initiative, which included the stockpiles of respirators and ventilators, was more geared toward a flu pandemic. The state legislature authorized $214 million in startup costs, according to state records.

One issue with the mobile hospitals is that they consumed a lot of warehouse space and had to be kept in a ready-to-go condition. The 2,400-portable battery—powered ventilators required ongoing maintenance, according to Lori Johnson, who worked for Cardinal Health and who sold the machines to the state.

She said that staff had to routinely service and clean machines and recharge batteries to ensure the ventilators would be ready in an emergency.

Other gear also required regular maintenance, while some supplies had to be replaced as they reached their expiration dates.

The cost to maintain and store the equipment for the programs amounted to about $5.8 million a year, according to state records–$1.7 million for the hospitals and $4.1 million for the medical stockpile—a mere pittance for the California state budget.

When the recession hit in 2008, state lawmakers and Brown’s finance officials began to question spending on emergency preparedness. This is what you call being penny-wise and pound-foolish.

The maintenance fund was zeroed out in 2011. Brown noted that the programs had been set up to counter “a potential influenza pandemic which did not occur.” But it’s Trump’s fault.

The EMS Authority was given a year at the time to try to find another source to keep the hospitals going. Backer tried to save them by reaching out to the private sector but was not successful.

“We really tried hard to convince people that this was a worthwhile investment,” Backer noted. “IT was quite disappointing.”

Then-assemblyman Bill Monning, a Democrat from Carmel, suggested at the time that the state should sell it’s unneeded medical equipment on eBay.

“I say this not intending to be funny,” he told the Sacramento Bee at the time.

He of course refused to comment on the current situation.

Much of the equipment ended up being given away—donated to county health departments and local hospitals. As to the ventilators, it isn’t clear what happened.

Some people who deal in used medical equipment seemed to recall many of the ventilators being resold by hospitals and nursing homes to other dealers, who then likely shipped them out of the country.

Apparently, California wasn’t the only state that dropped the ball. According to Dr. Lewis Rubinson, chief medical officer at Morristown Medical Center in New Jersey led a 2010 study quantifying how many ventilators were available at hospitals throughout the country.

He says that several other states also decided to save money on the costs of maintaining and storing stockpiled by donating the machines to hospitals, nursing homes and other facilities.

Several experts say that had the state kept its ventilators and maintained them, most would have still been in good working order today according to several experts in the ventilator and healthcare industries.

Rubinson noted that a stockpile of 2,400 well-maintained ventilators would be a valuable asset for any state trying to treat coronavirus patients.

“I would say that a number of them are really kicking themselves,” Rubinson said.

After the economy rebounded, California soon enjoyed a budget surplus. However, Brown’s administration didn’t restore the emergency programs. At a hearing in 2015, state Sen. Hannah-Beth Jackson asked emergency officials why they were not seeking to rebuild the mobile hospital program.

“You know, we never know when the next disaster is going to occur,” she said. “But if these things have been mothballed, there are going to be a lot of questions asked.”

But it’s Trump’s fault.  

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