Aides to New York Democrat Governor Andrew Cuomo “spent months” trying to obscure the death toll associated with Cuomo’s now-infamous nursing home policy, according to a report from The New York Times, repeatedly overruling state health officials who authorized sharing the death toll with the public and with other New York legislators.
The Cuomo nursing home policy, which forced long-term and other adult care facilities to accept patients recovering from bouts with COVID-19, even if they remained contagious or still tested positive for the virus, may have been responsible for thousands of deaths statewide, particularly among populations vulnerable to the virus: the elderly and minority communities.
According to earlier reports, a Cuomo aide admitted to some Democratic legislators, in January, that Cuomo’s office deliberately hid the number of nursing home deaths from the public. Early accounts of the meeting, indicate that Cuomo’s administration hid the numbers in order to avoid federal scrutiny. Later reports seem to indicate that Cuomo wanted the number kept quiet as he prepared to unveil a book on leadership based on his experience leading New York, the early epicenter of the COVID-19 outbreak, through the pandemic.
Now, the Times reveals, the effort to obscure the true nursing home COVID-19 death toll was “far greater than previously known,” and appears to have involved a five-month, all-hands-on-deck effort among Cuomo’s top aides.
“Mr. Cuomo’s most senior aides engaged in a sustained effort to prevent the state’s own health officials, including the commissioner, Howard Zucker, from releasing the true death toll to the public or sharing it with state lawmakers, these interviews and documents showed,” according to the Times’ Thursday report.
“A scientific paper, which incorporated the data, was never published. An audit of the numbers by a top Cuomo aide was finished months before it became publicly known. Two letters, drafted by the Health Department and meant for state legislators, were never sent,” the outlet added.
“After the first wave of coronavirus infections and Covid-19 deaths peaked in April 2020, health officials began trying to figure out how many nursing home residents had died, according to three people with knowledge of the process who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss its details,” the Times reported Thursday. “The officials surveyed nursing homes late last April — a process overseen by Mr. Cuomo’s aides — and gathered data on residents who died in the facilities, as well as those who had died after being transferred to hospitals, the people said.”
As they gathered the data, Cuomo’s aides started to grow concerned, with one even emailing that “[w]e are getting anxious over here on this report.” Aides rewrote the report “several times” in an effort to “emphasize” that nursing home readmissions “were not a driver of nursing home infections or fatalities.”
A separate report, drafted by health officials, concluded that “[a]pproximately 35 percent” of all COVID-19 deaths at that point in the pandemic “were nursing home residents” — a startling number.
“But that version was never published,” the Times noted. “And the publicly released report instead claimed 21 percent of all deaths in New York were in nursing homes.”
As The Daily Wire noted previously, Cuomo’s office rescinded the nursing home policy after just two months, but by then, it had already become clear that something was strange with the administration’s public data. “Not all the deaths,” the Times reported, “were being included” in the official tally. “Those who died after being transferred to hospitals were not counted as nursing home deaths” even if they contracted their fatal COVID-19 infection in a long-term care facility.
“That statistic that could add thousands to the state’s official care home death toll of just over 6,600,” the Associated Press reported last summer. “But so far the administration of Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo has refused to divulge the number, leading 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.”
Now, Cuomo’s administration is under investigation from both the FBI and the United States Attorneys’ office.