NEW YORK - With so much attention on problems at New York state nursing homes, issues in group homes may have been largely overlooked. But advocates say these facilities, where people with developmental disabilities live, are no less important. Now critics insist state policy has put people at risk of contracting the coronavirus.
"They did not follow common sense and somebody needs to be held accountable," said Bill Platt about the Cuomo administration's handling of COVID-19 cases in group homes.
Two of his developmentally disabled sisters, who live in separate facilities, were both infected and died in the early days of the pandemic. His brother, who lives in a separate group home, also tested positive and later recovered. Platt said the virus moved through group homes like a "fire."
The Cuomo administration's policy, similar to nursing homes, allowed asymptomatic patients to return to group homes. An advisory in April 2020 said no individual would be denied readmission or admission based solely on a confirmed or suspected diagnosis if they could be safely accommodated.
"Many of these facilities were not given the proper PPE," Rep. Nicole Malliotakis, R-N.Y. She is among lawmakers on both sides of the aisle, at the state and federal level, calling for investigations. She said that is only fair given accusations that the Cuomo administration under-reported deaths in nursing homes.
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The Office for People with Developmental Disabilities said that calls for investigations are politically motivated. In a statement, the department said it was "able to minimize spread of the virus, work with providers to establish additional facilities to quarantine individuals when necessary, and provide financial and regulatory relief to its service providers."
The department said it has always been transparent with the numbers.
To date, about 20% of the 34,500 people with intellectual and developmental disabilities in group homes have tested positive. At least 554 have died.