Stop us if you’ve heard this before. State officials made a series of deadly errors in nursing home responses to COVID-19 that ended up killing countless seniors.
If you thought we were just talking about New York, you’d be mistaken.
A new report in Colorado Public Radio revealed ineffective COVID-19 tests administered in nursing homes here may have contributed to a spate of nursing home deaths between Thanksgiving and Christmas of last year.
And Jared Polis isn’t talking.
— Kyle Clark (@KyleClark) June 24, 2021
We pick on the liberal press corps quite a bit, but it says something when even they can’t ignore the gravity of this bombshell.
Evidence in yesterday’s Colorado Public Radio’s story from Ben Markus suggests defective tests, bungled testing preparation, and Polis’s completely impotent COVID-19 strike force may have created a perfect storm for nursing home deaths at the end of last year.
Colorado had the worst rate of death per occupied nursing home bed in the U.S. between Thanksgiving and Christmas of last year.
Stunningly, Colorado’s nursing home death rate during this period was twice the rate of death as the national average.
According to Public Radio, the deaths were “driven by an inability to keep the virus out of nursing homes after the state’s system for testing and contact tracing in the homes collapsed.”
Gov. Jared Polis and the leader of the state’s health department never revealed to the public that the state’s lab was overwhelmed or that the state’s nursing homes had become, however briefly, the deadliest in the nation.
The story centers around the Polis administration’s decision to sign a no-bid $90 million COVID-19 testing contract with Curative Labs.
The start-up company is helmed by a 25 year-old CEO, Fred Turner. More on this later.
Curative’s COVID-19 tests were only FDA approved for symptomatic patients.
However, with testing capacity pushed to its brink last year, the Polis administration began to use Curative “off label” for asymptomatic patients in nursing homes.
The results were catastrophic.
According to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, Colorado nursing homes reported a staggering 1,118 COVID-19 deaths between November and January.
Nursing homes immediately argued to the state something was wrong with the tests when the state began administering them in November, but their protests fell on deaf ears.
By January, the FDA issued a warning saying off label use of Curative COVID tests risked returning false negative results.
The Polis administration waited another 17 days later to pull the Curative tests entirely.
The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment’s COVID strike force also turned out to be a bill of goods, despite Polis touting the initiative on Nov. 2 as a “national model.”
In concept, the state’s strike force was supposed to be a team of public health professionals from the health department who could descend on a nursing home and take control of a deteriorating COVID-19 situation.
However, when infections at nursing homes escalated, the strike force’s impotency was laid bare.
“Finally, it was like, ‘Hey, help me to understand why are these numbers going up so fast when they have every resource available to them?’ And then the answers were ‘well, no, they don’t have that resource.’”
Because it didn’t exist, at least not in the way many in public health envisioned it as an infection control SWAT team that would put boots on the ground to help nursing homes in crisis, without issuing citations and seeking fines.
According to email records, the best the nursing home was going to get from CDPHE was a trio of low level epidemiologists with minimal experience in outbreaks.
It raises alarm bells that only Polis and the folks at Curative refused to be interviewed by Markus.
Polis obviously senses tremendous political risk if he doesn’t want to talk to the press about a story this huge.
A report last month in the Colorado Springs Gazette might explain, at least partially, why.
Emails obtained by the Gazette revealed the individual who initially introduced Curative to the state of Colorado is an Aspen investor named Gary Lauder, grandson of the founder of cosmetics giant Estée Lauder.
Lauder, an investor in Curative, hosted Polis’s then Senior Pandemic Advisor Kacey Wulff at his home last July and proceeded to pitch Curative’s services.
The Aspen magnate is a prominent Democrat donor with strong ties to Polis and countless other Democrats.
Lauder and employees of his firm Lauder Partners have donated more than $4.59 million to federal political campaigns or Democratic campaign committees since 1992, according to the Federal Election Commission. Polis’ congressional campaign committee got $10,300 in campaign contributions from Gary Lauder from 2011 to 2016. Polis won the governorship in 2018.
The governor’s office strongly denied at the time of the Gazette story that there were any political considerations with respect to the contract with Curative Labs.
Sarah Tuneberg, the former head of testing for the state health department offered a softer denial of Lauder’s potential involvement to the Gazette.
To say you shouldn’t be picking an entrepreneurial company with a young founder is ageist,” said Tuneberg, stressing that she doesn’t recall Lauder playing a role in the state’s contract with Curative Labs. [emphasis added]
As an individual that was charged with selecting testing companies for the state, one would think Tuneberg would be able to be a little bit more explicit about the people who did and did not impact the decision to use Curative Labs.
Moreover, it’s completely fair to question the state’s decision to put the welfare of Colorado’s seniors in the hands of an unproven testing company with a 25 year-old CEO.
Anyone in the Polis administration who thinks otherwise should try telling that to the families who lost loved ones due to Curative’s faulty COVID tests.
The main individuals connected to the Curative debacle have also all conveniently departed the Polis administration.
Tuneberg resigned on Jan. 26, the same day the state pulled the Curative tests, while Polis’s former Senior Pandemic Advisor Kacey Wulff departed for the Biden on administration on Jan. 21.
Curiously, the state didn’t announce Wulff’s departure until the 26th, five days after Wulff started her new job.
Did Polis not want the public to know that heads were rolling behind the scenes due to what could be the greatest public health scandal in Colorado’s history?
The fact Polis won’t go on record himself to either the Gazette or Public Radio should raise massive red flags for every journalist looking at the potential scale of this story.
Either way, the incompetence shown by senior members of the Polis administration mirrors the nursing home scandal that engulfed Gov. Andrew Cuomo in New York.
In both instances state officials never initially acknowledged the true scale of the crisis and death toll that unfolded under their watch.
By all appearances, Polis is doing everything he can to distance himself from this story and avoid accountability.
We’ll see how long that will last.
“It’s tragic and somebody needs to be accountable,” AARP State Director Bob Murphy told Public Radio.