© Washington Examiner
New York Governor Andrew Cuomo
New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo's nursing home deathtraps have silent partnersa network of some 7,000 group homes where thousands of disabled COVID-19-positive residents languished with little foresight or intervention by the state, a whistleblower has told the Washington Examiner.

Some 552 developmentally disabled individuals died from COVID-19 in the past year living in small residential group homes, while an additional 6,382 residents and workers were infected, according to the New York State Office for People With Developmental Disabilities. No comprehensive protocol existed to combat the disease as infected individuals were purposely mixed with clean households, said care worker Jeff Monsour.
"In one case, an individual shared a room in a medically frail facility with another individual — one had COVID, and the other did not. The only thing separating them was a cloth privacy screen. I have been complaining about this COVID situation for a year, along with some other things. I believe the dysfunction goes all the way to the top, to Cuomo."
Cuomo, who is currently facing a raft of sexual harassment allegations, is also under increasing pressure to resign over a nursing home scandal that claimed the lives of 15,000 patients due to a policy of forcing sick individuals back into clean homes. An initial report said only 6,432 people had died.

The OPWDD disputed the notion that residents in the state's 34,552-person system were returned to group homes without abiding by proper safety protocols.

An April 10 memo from the OPWDD directed that "no individual shall be denied re-admission or admission to a Certified Residential Facility based solely on a confirmed or suspected diagnosis of COVID-19." OPWDD's Director of Communications Jennifer O'Sullivan said:
"Only residents of OPWDD group homes who were sent to the hospital for COVID-19 treatment were returned to their homes after being deemed safe to return by the hospital physician, in consultation with the residential provider. Group home providers were only to accept individuals if they could safely accommodate them within the group home. Residents who could not be safely accommodated either remained at the hospital or were served in one of the over 100 temporary sites established for COVID-19 recovery efforts in partnership with OPWDD provider agencies."
O'Sullivan pointed to a line in the April 10 directive mandating that discharged patients are "medically stable for discharge" in the judgment of hospital discharge planners.

Monsour said the state's response
"is a complete lie. At-home tests have only been utilized recently. For most of the pandemic, the patients would go to a medical facility if symptoms arose and get a test that did not return immediate results. They would then return back home, infected, to lock down. As far as recovery facilities, we never heard of a separate recovery facility."
And because the state is short staffed by hundreds of employees, Monsour claims colleagues often backfill other locations, spreading the disease as they go. One such employee returned to Monsour's group home on Feb. 18, infecting seven residents and three staff members.

These recent infections were discovered with COVID-19 tests done at the residence. When they came back positive, the facility was locked down with the infected residents remaining inside. The sick mingled with the healthy as residents used the same restroom and ate in the kitchen because of a monitoring standard against choking, Monsour said. His recollections are similar to the statements of another whistleblower who talked to CBS6 last year.

That employee said there were COVID-19-positive houses in three different locations, including one in their own facility that put entire houses at risk by wandering outside the home and refusing to wear masks upon returning. The whistleblower said:
"We are encouraged to ask them to wear masks, [but] he refuses. He is allowed to do whatever he wants to do. He may come in from being wherever for four or five days, and then we don't know."
The anonymous informant asked the state to separate high-risk patients from those who are less careful to obey public health guidelines but had not heard back as of last May. The whistleblower added:
"It's been brought to their attention. We have vacant respite houses. They're just sitting there, they're not occupied."
CBS6 also asked Cuomo about his policy of workers who backfill the other group homes, spreading the disease. He said, "On the moving of staff, I don't know if that's right or wrong or normal operating procedure or not, but we can check."

Republicans, concerned about the possible impact of Cuomo's OPWDD policy, demanded answers during a hearing last month. State Sen. Mike Martucci, the top-ranking Republican on the Senate Disabilities Committee remarked:
"Transparency has been a major failing of this administration at all levels. I'm hopeful that they have finally learned their lesson and will provide the information we are requesting and provide it quickly."