Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo on May 26 in Manhattan.

Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo on May 26 in Manhattan. Credit: AFP via Getty Images / Johannes Eisele

Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo continued to defend his decision to place recovering COVID-19 patients into nursing homes, even though it brought him some “political heat,” he admitted on Sunday.

Cuomo also said it appears nursing home staff members were the source of infections in those facilities, where the disease ravaged the vulnerable residents. On Long Island alone, more than 1,600 people in nursing homes are confirmed or presumed to have died of COVID-19.

“I've taken political heat, OK? There are facts and there’s politics,” Cuomo told NBC's “Meet the Press” host Chuck Todd on Sunday. “There’s no doubt in nursing homes across this nation, that's where we saw most of the deaths,” Cuomo said.

IIn March, the state Health Department sent a directive to nursing homes saying they could not deny admission or readmission to patients based on a confirmed or suspected diagnosis of COVID-19. State law says nursing homes can only accept residents if they can provide adequate care.

In May, Cuomo issued an executive order barring hospitals from discharging patients to nursing homes unless that patient tests negative for COVID-19.

It was part of a larger plan to relieve crowding at hospitals, which were overwhelmed with COVID-19 cases in March and April.

That move drew criticism from nursing home operators and family members of residents, who said it helped introduce infection into facilities not equipped to contain it.

Cuomo disagreed that the infection was spread by incoming patients, telling Todd: “It is becoming more and more clear that the infection in the nursing homes came from the staff that got infected and brought it in.”

Cuomo pointed to a recent New York Times investigation that found New York State was ranked 46th in nursing home deaths in the nation.

The Times investigation showed 43% of all U.S. deaths attributed to COVID-19 were linked to nursing homes and other long-term care facilities for older adults.

The newspaper reported there were 6,432 COVID-19-related deaths at 509 facilities in the state.

“So it's been unfortunate in every state and we have to do more,” Cuomo said. “We have to figure it out, but if they want to point fingers, not at New York. We're number 46. You have 45 other states to point fingers at first.”

Correction: The state Health Department sent a directive to nursing homes saying they could not deny admission or readmission to patients based on a confirmed or suspected diagnosis of COVID-19. An earlier version of this story misstated the origin of the directive.

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