New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo lied about the number of COVID-19 deaths in nursing homes due to his inadequate leadership and policy that sent infected patients into care facilities during the pandemic.
In a new, lengthy report following months of a highly-anticipated investigation into the deadly neglect, New York state Attorney General Letitia James found that Cuomo, his administration, and the state’s Health Department severely undercounted the number of COVID-related deaths in nursing homes by as much as 50 percent. One example cited in the report shows that a long-term care facility that the state claimed only had 11 deaths from COVID-19 actually lost 40 people to the virus, with more than half occurring at the home.
“As the pandemic and our investigations continue, it is imperative that we understand why the residents of nursing homes in New York unnecessarily suffered at such an alarming rate,” James said. “While we cannot bring back the individuals we lost to this crisis, this report seeks to offer transparency that the public deserves and to spur increased action to protect our most vulnerable residents.”
Originally, the state recorded more than 8,500 Wuhan virus deaths of nursing home residents following Cuomo’s March 25, 2020 order, which said elderly patients with COVID-19, discharged from hospitals, should return back to their care facilities. The order extended for more than a month, leading to the infection of thousands of vulnerable people in close quarters with contagious co-residents. These thousands of nursing home infections and deaths were concerning to the families of the patients and to members of the public who questioned the state’s policy to count only COVID-19 deaths that occurred at the facility and ignore the deaths of residents who contracted the virus in their nursing home but later died in the hospital.
“Preliminary data obtained by O.A.G. suggests that many nursing home residents died from Covid-19 in hospitals after being transferred from their nursing homes, which is not reflected in D.O.H.’s published total nursing home death data,” the new report states.
The attorney general’s finding contradicts an internal report conducted by the state’s Health Department and Cuomo’s claims last summer that the state did nothing wrong and that most of the patients returned to nursing homes “were no longer contagious when admitted and therefore were not a source of infection.”
Cuomo’s own order, however, mandated the following:
No resident shall be denied re-admission or admission to the [nursing home] solely based on a confirmed or suspected diagnosis of COVID-19. [Nursing homes] are prohibited from requiring a hospitalized resident who is determined medically stable to be tested for COVID-19 prior to admission or readmission.
Despite his clear directive, the Democratic governor tried to play off any accusations of his malpractice, denying that his policy was responsible for the thousands of deaths that occurred.
Cuomo then pivoted to blaming the Trump Administration, claiming “federal guidelines:” resulted in Covid patients being moved into New York nursing homes https://t.co/PYy3fd2Bl8
— Tom Elliott (@tomselliott) January 28, 2021
On MSNBC, Cuomo again made the strange claim that the federal government reporting the virus originated in China is the reason he ordered Covid patients into nursing homes. pic.twitter.com/H9c6KeS4q9
— Tom Elliott (@tomselliott) January 28, 2021
In addition to the latest report’s finding that New York undercounted the nursing home deaths, it also found that staff in the long-term care facilities were not properly equipped to protect themselves nor their residents from viral spread, a consequence, the report notes, that may be a result of the state reimbursement model, which “gives a financial incentive to owners of for-profit nursing homes to transfer funds to related parties instead of investing in higher levels of staffing and equipment.” The report also found that nursing homes were severely lacking adequate coronavirus testing of the people inside and that many of the facilities did not follow an executive order mandating that family members of the patients be allowed to communicate with them.
Republican New York Rep. Elise Stefanik called on the state’s attorney general and the U.S. Department of Justice to further investigate Cuomo’s mismanagement and subpoena information “related to this corrupt and illegal coverup.”
“This is now more than a nursing home scandal, this is a massive corruption and coverup scandal at the highest level of New York State Government implicating the Governor, the Secretary to the Governor, the New York State Health Commissioner and the Governor’s staff,” she said in a statement. “Every New Yorker deserves transparency, accountability and answers regarding the orchestration of this illegal coverup.”
While he received some criticism from fellow politicians, activists, and families of nursing home patients who died, Cuomo also accepted praise for his handling of the COVID-19 crisis by the corporate media and others, receiving an international Emmy Award for his televised press conferences and live COVID-19 updates.
More recently, Cuomo received criticism for dragging his feet on the state’s coronavirus vaccine rollout, enacting multiple layers of rules and eligibility requirements that made it too difficult to access and administer, and prioritizing people such as drug addicts before senior citizens.