Larry O’Connor, In the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic, the governor of California did just what Andrew Cuomo did in New York. He ordered nursing homes to admit COVID-positive patients. This appears to have allowed the virus to spread to the most vulnerable population, just as it did in New York. And, it’s about time people started noticing.
The grass-roots movement to recall California Governor Gavin Newsom has reached well over the 1.5 million petition signatures needed to qualify for a special election. And with several weeks to go, the recall organizers are aiming for more than 2 million signatures to send a clear message to the one-party state’s leadership in Sacramento.
The momentum building behind the Newsom recall is justified based on his perceived mishandling of the COVID-19 pandemic in his state as well as blatant hypocrisy displayed in the now-infamous big-money special interest gourmet dinner he attended at the exclusive French Laundry restaurant defying his own draconian orders prohibiting such gatherings.
His subsequent smirking denials and obfuscations over the event cemented the narrative that Newsom is an out-of-touch elitist demanding prohibition against dining and in-class instruction for his citizens while he enjoys the high-life and his kids attend private school.
Add to that the brewing scandal involving upward of $30 billion of unemployment benefits being funneled to convicted felons in the prison system instead of the starving Californians who’ve been forced out of work by the governor’s mandates, and you have the perfect recipe for the grassroots revolt we are witnessing with the recall ballot petitions.
And, as if those reasons weren’t enough, it now appears that Newsom will soon have to deal with a Cuomo-like nursing home scandal of his own. This story could put the final political nail in Newsom’s coffin and secure his removal from office.
Here’s what the Sacramento Bee reported this week:
A year into the pandemic, California’s workplace safety watchdog still doesn’t know how many nursing home workers have contracted COVID-19 on the job and died, a Sacramento Bee review of state records shows.
California’s health department regularly updates a list of COVID-19 infections and deaths at nursing homes. But only about half of those listed facilities have bothered to report the death to Cal/OSHA, the agency in charge of enforcing worker safety, according to the state records.
The failure to report the COVID-19 deaths — by as many as 64 nursing homes — exposes a significant flaw in the state’s response to the pandemic. The state is unable to fully track the spread of the deadly disease in a workplace setting where, more than anywhere else in California, the virus is ruthlessly stalking employees and patients.
The failure to report COVID deaths from nursing homes is certainly reminiscent of Cuomo’s attempt to cover-up the full extent of deaths in the Empire State, but is Newsom also culpable (like Cuomo) for an executive directive forcing COVID-positive patients into those long term care facilities?
You have to hunt to find data on that, but a May 2020 editorial in the Bay Area’s Mercury News tells the tale:
Gov. Gavin Newsom is recklessly pushing to place more coronavirus patients in nursing homes and assisted living facilities while COVID-19 cases and deaths are mounting rapidly in California’s care residences for the elderly.
State data shows that at least 41 percent of all known coronavirus deaths in California have occurred among residents and staff of nursing homes and assisted living facilities.
Meanwhile, the number of nursing home deaths jumped 51% in eight days from April 23-May 1. And deaths in assisted living facilities nearly doubled between April 20-May 3
The editorial is quite balanced and fair to the governor on some points in his early handling of the pandemic, but it lowers the boom here:
The governor last week issued an offer to pay, in some cases $1,000 per day, to assisted living facilities to house COVID-19 patients. That comes on top of his earlier directive that nursing homes should expect to take coronavirus patients.
“Any guidance from the government that opens the door to send more COVID-19 into a nursing home or assisted living facility, to me, is medically unsound,” said Dr. Michael Wasserman, a geriatrician and the president of the California Association of Long Term Medicine.
So, what happened early in the pandemic to create the situation in California’s nursing homes that raised the ire of the Mercury News’ editorial board?
Like his scandal-plagued counterpart in New York, Newsom ordered long-term care facilities to do just what Cuomo ordered his to do. Here’s The LA Times on April 1, 2020:
As fears escalate about the toll the coronavirus will take on the sick and elderly in nursing homes — who are among the most vulnerable to the deadly virus — California regulators have told skilled nursing facility operators that they must accept patients even if they have the disease.
The order comes amid a fierce debate between healthcare providers. Hospitals are desperate to clear space for an expected wave of COVID-19 patients, so they are discharging as many patients as possible, including nursing home residents.
Many nursing home administrators are equally desperate to keep those residents out until they are proven virus-free, fearing a catastrophic result if the deadly pathogen gains a foothold in their institutions.
And, like Cuomo, Newsom subsequently had his order expunged from his state’s health and human services website with an update in June 2020. However, that update still included language that appears to have compelled nursing homes to accept COVID-positive patients, with some additional guidance.
SNFs shall not discriminate admits or readmits, nor transfer or discharge residents based on their status as a suspected or confirmed COVID-19 case.
There are many more hard questions that need to be put to the governor regarding this horrible mess. As he faces an existential threat to his political career, the facts keep mounting that call into question his judgment, leadership, and competence.
The people of California are demanding accountability and answers… will the members of the California political press do the same?