News and Commentary

Andrew Cuomo Still Stalling On Providing Accurate Number Of COVID-19 Nursing Home Deaths
Andrew Cuomo, governor of New York, speaks during a news conference in New York, U.S., on Monday, Oct. 5, 2020.
Jeenah Moon/Bloomberg via Getty Images

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) still hasn’t provided the total number of nursing home deaths that resulted from COVID-19.

The New York Post reported that Cuomo and his administration have told the watchdog group Empire Center for Public Policy that they need another two months at least to compile the data for a legal request made by the group. The administration said it needed more time “because the records potentially responsive to your request are currently being reviewed for applicable exemptions, legal privileges and responsiveness.”

The response stems from an August 22 Freedom of Information Law (FOIL) request filed by ECPP “seeking the total number of COVID-19 nursing home fatalities — those who died in nursing homes and those who were ill and died after being transported to hospitals,” the Post reported.

The problem comes from the fact that the New York state Health Department, unlike other states, doesn’t include in its total nursing home deaths the number of people who were transported from a nursing home to a hospital with COVID-19 and died there. Such numbers are believed to drastically increase the state’s total number of nursing home deaths. New York currently says that 8,201 residents died in nursing homes from COVID-19, though the state refuses to admit that Cuomo’s March 25 mandate that nursing homes accept coronavirus-positive patients whether they could safely quarantine them or not played a role in the death toll.

“The state is stonewalling — plain and simple,” ECPP’s Bill Hammond told the Post. “This would be like the New York City Police Department reporting homicides on weekdays and not weekends.”

Hammond insisted that it is possible to get the full totals of nursing home deaths because nursing homes are asked by the state’s Health Emergency Response Data System how many residents died after being sent to hospitals in addition to the number who died in the facilities themselves, the Post reported.

The information has already been collected and could easily be turned over, as evidenced by the fact that the state has fined nursing homes that didn’t submit daily reports about coronavirus cases on time. A spokesperson for the New York Health Department added that part of the delay is because the state is “busy managing a pandemic response and vaccination distribution plan.”

Hammond wrote on the ECPP website that it was “clear that the state is illegally hiding basic information about a public health crisis.”

“The department’s excuses are an insult to the intelligence of every New Yorker, and the Cuomo administration’s stonewalling makes a mockery of the public’s right to know. It’s increasingly evident that the state will not release these records until compelled to do so by the courts,” he added.

After the mandate that nursing homes accept COVID-positive patients was rescinded, Cuomo blamed everyone but himself and his administration for the massive number of avoidable deaths in the Empire State. He blamed the federal government, health care workers, and allegedly greedy nursing homes for the death toll in his state.

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