When Covid Hit Nursing Homes, Part 2: ‘They’re Not Giving Us an Ending’


michael barbaro

From The New York Times, I’m Michael Barbaro. This is The Daily. Yesterday, we told the story of Lorry Sullivan. Last February, her mother entered a nursing home on Long Island with an injured leg.

lorry sullivan

And the nursing home said, your mother is going to be safer here than she’s going to be at home, with people coming in and out of the house.

amy julia

Mm, so they were saying because it was a lockdown facility, that would be safer than if she was at home, where you’re coming and going.

lorry sullivan

Right. So we thought, OK, so they’ll be on lockdown. Everything will be OK.

michael barbaro

Within weeks, she had died from Covid-19. Her death, and the death of thousands of nursing home residents across the state, has now triggered a political firestorm and a federal investigation. Today: In part two of her investigation, Amy Julia Harris examines how the decisions made by New York’s governor, Andrew Cuomo, may have contributed to the crisis. It’s Wednesday, February 24.

OK, so Amy Julia, yesterday, you told us that two weeks before Lorry’s mother died of Covid-19, Governor Andrew Cuomo pretty much ensured that people like Lorry couldn’t hold nursing homes responsible for the deaths of their loved ones. What is the story of how that happened, how holding nursing homes responsible now appears all but impossible?

amy julia

Michael, you sort of have to go back to the beginning of March when the pandemic and Covid is really bearing down on New York City.

archived recording 1

Good evening, everyone. Tonight we’re becoming crushed under a tidal wave of unfathomable numbers. [SIRENS]

archived recording 2

Queens in New York is the worst infected district in what is now the world’s worst infected city. And the doctors and nurses don’t know what’s hit them.

amy julia

It’s the epicenter of the crisis.

archived recording

People come in, they get intubated, they die. The cycle repeats.

amy julia

It is chaotic. People are dying.

archived recording 1

New York City paramedics are no longer taking patients to hospitals unless they have a pulse, to ease the strain on overcrowded ERs.

archived recording 2

What is becoming quite clear is New York is reaching a tipping point and a fall sooner than anyone here expected.

amy julia

And the Cuomo administration said that they were scrambling to free up hospital beds.

archived recording (andrew cuomo)

We have 3,000 I.C.U. beds. We may need between 18,000 to 37,000. That’s my greatest concern because —

amy julia

And they were looking at a variety of different facilities.

archived recording (andrew cuomo)

I’m on my way down to the Javits Center today. I want to make sure —

amy julia

There was the Javits Center, there was a Navy ship.

archived recording (andrew cuomo)

— right away. Then we’re going to Stony Brook. We’re going to just Westchester. We’re going to use Old Westbury.

amy julia

They were looking at surgery centers. And nursing homes was also one of the places they were looking at. Which, looking back at it now, that kind of seems crazy, but at the time, the Cuomo administration said that they were looking at any type of healthcare facility to just ensure that the sickest patients…



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