After months of being lauded by the media for his response to New York’s coronavirus outbreak, a new report by the state’s Attorney General claims that not only did NY Governor Andrew Cuomo cover up the number of nursing home deaths, but his policies may have directly resulted in the state’s unnecessarily high death count.
Earlier this week, NYS Attorney General Letitia James released a detailed report detailing how the state undercounted the number of nursing home deaths by nearly 50%.
According to the New York Times, James “reported on Thursday morning that Mr. Cuomo’s administration had undercounted coronavirus-related deaths of state nursing home residents by the thousands.”
Up until now, New York State only included nursing home resident deaths occurring inside nursing homes as ‘nursing home deaths.’ Residents who contracted COVID-19 inside a nursing home, but sadly died in a hospital or anywhere offsite were not counted.
“Health Department officials made public new data that added more than 3,800 deaths to their tally,” the NY Times added, “representing nursing home residents who had died in hospitals and had not previously been counted by the state as nursing home deaths.”
The Associated Press detailed Cuomo’s secrecy around nursing home deaths back in August, acknowledging this led “to speculation the state is manipulating the figures to make it appear it is doing better than other states and to make a tragic situation less dire.” The numbers being reported seemed too fishy and too low to be complete.
Total nursing home deaths were believed to be just shy of 9,000 statewide. Following the publishing of James’ report, NY Health Commissioner Howard Zucker released a revised death count. NY Department of Health now estimates 12,743 nursing home residents have died from COVID-19 as of January 19th, representing 30% of state deaths.
State directives may have been a contributing factor to this high death toll. “A New York state mandate [required] nursing homes to accept those recovering from COVID-19, even if they still might be contagious,” NBC reported back in April. On March 25th, Cuomo’s health department required nursing homes to admit recently recovered COVID patients, possibly exposing still contagious individuals to the most vulnerable population.
As of May, 2020, 6,300 recovering COVID patients were sent back into nursing homes. Cuomo’s directive was reversed in early May after widespread outcry. The Governor lied on multiple occasions about the nature of this directive, enough for even CNN to fact check his statements.
Few regular network news viewers would tell you they haven’t seen Cuomo’s daily Coronavirus briefings and PowerPoints broadcasted from Albany. The governor’s daily presentations were so popular among media pundits and left wing viewers that Cuomo actually won an Emmy for them.
While the media gawked at the supposedly “facts first” messaging, New York was ravished. By early April, 1,000 New Yorkers were dying each day from Coronavirus related complications. No other state, even at their worst, has come close to that number. California’s worst day saw no more than 750 deaths; Texas maxed out below 500. Florida, a state criticized by every major outlet for allegedly botching their response, never surpassed 300 COVID-19 deaths a day.
On a per capita basis, New York, which experienced a cumulative 2,238 deaths per million residence is the second worst state, behind only New Jersey with 2,416 deaths per million residents. Florida, the media’s punching bag, is ranked 26th with 1,227 deaths per million residents. Every death is tragic, even one is too many, but it’s clear some states handled their response better than others.
When confronted Friday about AG James’ new report during his Emmy winning daily briefings, Cuomo gave a dismissive and unsympathetic response, telling journalists “who cares” about getting the number of nursing home deaths correct.
“If you look at New York state, we have a lower percentage of deaths in nursing homes than other states,” Cuomo said after reporters brought up the report.
“A third of all deaths in this nation are from nursing homes. New York state, we’re only about 28 percent — only — but we’re below the national average in number of deaths in nursing homes.”
“But who cares — 33 [percent], 29 [percent] — died in the hospital, died in a nursing home? They died.”
His uncaring response led many on social media to share their stories of loved ones who died in NY nursing homes.