To the editor:
It was stated in “Our View,” (Saturday, Sunday, Sept. 25-26, 2021), that recently resigned State Health Commissioner, Dr. Howard Zucker, owed the families of those who died in nursing homes due to Covid-19, summer 2020, an apology for his part in the blunder of the underreporting of these deaths and for the mandate of March 2020 that nursing home residents who tested positive for the virus could not be discriminated against by not being readmitted to these facilities. This sentiment among those grieving for their loved ones is understandable. I both worked in a nursing home and lost my mother who was living in one at the time of her death. I understand how common viruses and infection can spread quickly in these communal settings. But as a former admitting coordinator, I also know how much pressure is put on a nursing facility to take patients from acute hospitals once a patient is in the convalescent stage of an affliction, under any circumstance. When people are otherwise too incapacitated to take care of themselves at home, or if they or their families cannot find or afford twenty-four hour, in-home care, nursing and convalescent homes are the alternative. This is why they exist, to take care of those who cannot take care of themselves. So my question is where were the hospitals that were beginning to fill up with very ill Covid-19 patients supposed to send the patients who were otherwise living in nursing homes before their hospitalization? In an ideal world, there would have been a place specifically set up for just such emergencies. But that was not the reality in March 2020.
During that time, New York City was becoming a scary place and those who could afford to fled the City. Governor Cuomo found himself dealing with what turned out to be a world-wide pandemic. At first, he fumbled. Not accurately recording how many patients died in nursing homes was a serious mistake. But we must not forget how many lives he saved once he finally got a handle on the situation. The same holds true for Dr. Zucker, his medical advisor.
Starting spring 2020, I and millions of others listened to or read Governor Cuomo’s daily Covid-19 updates. They became the informative beacon of light in a terrifying situation. Giving credit where credit is due is also important in this increasingly unforgiving and divisive world.