WASHINGTON — Rep. Tom Reed and House Republican Whip Steve Scalise penned an op-ed for the Washington Examiner Wednesday highlighting how an investigation into nursing home policies of hard-hit states like New York will help to safeguard older residents from the threat of COVID-19.
In a recent letter, Reed called for the Ways & Means Health Subcommittee to hold a hearing to further review states’ nursing home policies and discuss best practices that can be implemented moving forward.
Over the last two months, Reed has also called for New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo to provide the public with answers regarding the order that nursing homes must accept COVID-19 patients.
“It is estimated over 40,000 of our nation’s grandparents, and the selfless men and women who care for them, have died due to COVID-19 since the start of the pandemic,” Reed, R-Corning, and Scalise, of Lousiana, wrote. “Until we can ensure that every state and nursing facility in our union is better prepared to handle the threat the virus poses, this horrific death toll will only rise.”
The congressmen wrote that while there is a reprieve from the outbreak in significant portions of the country, scientists have warned that a second wave of the virus could happen in the coming months.
“We’ve already seen the deadly impact the wrong policies can have — so why not start there?” the op-ed reads. “By closely investigating the states where things went so awry, we can learn from the serious mistakes of the past and avoid repeating this dark history.”
Reed and Scalise point out that in New York alone, more than 5,900 nursing home and adult care residents have died — “and this number is undercounted because of the way the state has assigned nursing home deaths.”
They contend Cuomo’s decisions, including forcing nursing homes to receive virus-positive patients, “are directly responsible for the death of so many of the state’s grandparents.” They wrote the decision was in direct conflict with CDC guidance.
“Months into the crisis, Cuomo still doesn’t have a clue,” Reed and Scalise allege. “After weeks of enforcing a twice-a-week testing regime, despite numerous questions over the effectiveness, cost and impact of such a rule, the state has again reversed course. Even for Cuomo, it was impossible to ignore reports revealing that nursing facilities hadn’t received test results for weeks and hospitals were delaying elective surgeries.”
The congressman wrote that instead of taking responsibility for the state’s “inability to protect its vulnerable,” Cuomo has deflected blame.
They wrote that a close examination of other states with high death tolls, such as Michigan, Washington and New Jersey, is needed to determine what can be done to prevent such outcomes.
They added that Congress can do more to support such reviews and assist in the development of a national nursing home strategy. They encouraged both the House and Senate to hold hearings on the issue, examine how federal funds can be better targeted to incentivize best practices, and facilitate more collaboration between federal, state, and local officials.
Reed and Scalise were to hold a press conference Thursday morning to reiterate their calls for hearings.