(The Center Square) – The Cuomo administration reportedly held up New York health officials from reporting the true COVID-19 death toll attributable to nursing homes for at least five months. That’s according to a bombshell report published by The New York Times on Wednesday.
The article details to some of the lengths officials who report to Gov. Andrew Cuomo went to to keep the data secret. Officials prevented two letters penned to state lawmakers from being sent and stalled the release of an audit for months.
Critics of the embattled Democratic governor on both sides of the aisle pounced on the news and reiterated their calls for an immediate impeachment of Cuomo.
“Today’s revelation in The New York Times once again confirms what my Senate Republican colleagues and I have said for months: the Governor and his administration lied about COVID-related nursing home deaths, they lied about covering it up, and they continue to lie about their deliberate efforts to mislead the public,” Senate Minority Leader Rob Ortt, R-North Tonawanda, said in a statement.
Both Ortt and state Sen. Jim Tedisco, R-Glenville, lambasted Democratic leaders in the Legislature for not effectively investigating the governor nor holding him accountable.
“Just calling a hearing and bringing the Health Commissioner to give us a bunch of non-answers is not an investigation, it’s an acquiescence to the Fourth Estate to do the legislature’s job,” Tedisco said.
Critics of Cuomo have raised questions about a policy the administration established in the early days of the pandemic that required nursing homes to readmit residents who had tested positive for COVID-19. The move was done to make more hospital beds available as caseloads increased significantly.
But within days of the order, the number of deaths skyrocketed. On March 25, 2020, the state reported 117 deaths and had a seven-day rolling average count of 50. On April 11, 2020, 997 people died, and the state’s seven-day average death toll was 946.
The policy was repealed on May 10, 2020.
The administration in its own investigation said that long-term care workers and visitors brought the coronavirus into the facilities prior to the order and was the primary cause for nursing home fatalities.
The Times reported though that Melissa DeRosa, Cuomo’s top aide, laid out specific points that the report should include with each designed to assuage the impact the nursing home policy had. The internal report, reportedly, went through several drafts before its release last summer.
As the state initially reported deaths, it did so based on deaths occurring in nursing homes and deaths in hospitals. For months, critics complained that this method of counting obscured the actual impact the virus had in nursing homes, as thousands of residents were sent to hospitals and eventually died there.
It wasn’t until a report released in late January 2021 by Attorney General Letitia James that stated while the actual death toll was accurate, the actual number of deaths attributable to nursing homes was underreported by as much as 50 percent.
James’ investigation has since led to one launched by federal authorities.
Since March 2020, more 51,587 New Yorkers have died due to COVID-19. It’s now estimated that more than 15,500 were nursing home residents, according to the Times.
A lawyer for the administration told the newspaper that concerns about the administration’s involvement in releasing data was “overblown.”
“The chamber was never satisfied that the numbers that they were getting from (the Department of Health) were accurate,” Elkan Abramowitz said.
Besides the nursing home scandal, Cuomo has also come under fire for numerous sexual harassment allegations that have led to more calls for his ouster. The state Assembly Judiciary Committee has opened an impeachment inquiry, and James has also authorized an independent review of the harassment allegations.
Those are just two of controversies for the administration, which is also dealing with structural integrity concerns regarding the Gov. Mario M. Cuomo Tappan Zee Bridge and whether Cuomo staffers worked on his COVID-19 book during state time.
The Times article noted that the administration’s interventions on nursing home data coincided with the time Cuomo proposed and authored his book.
“Cuomo defrauded the public to sell more books,” Assemblyman Ron T. Kim, D-Queens, tweeted. “Impeach now and hold him accountable.”