Top aides of Democratic New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo reportedly pressured state health department officials to alter a report to remove the total number of nursing home residents who died from the coronavirus.
The report comes as the embattled governor faces accusations of covering up the impact of the pandemic on New York’s elderly population, as well as allegations of sexual harassment from two former staff members. The governor’s aides’ purported role in editing the health department report suggests that the cover up of New York’s nursing home data began much earlier than previously thought and as Cuomo began writing a book touting his leadership during the pandemic.
As The New York Times reported:
Top aides to Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo were alarmed: A report written by state health officials had just landed, and it included a count of how many nursing home residents in New York had died in the pandemic.
The number — more than 9,000 by that point in June — was not public, and the governor’s most senior aides wanted to keep it that way. They rewrote the report to take it out, according to interviews and documents reviewed by The New York Times.
The extraordinary intervention, which came just as Mr. Cuomo was starting to write a book on his pandemic achievements, was the earliest act yet known in what critics have called a monthslong effort by the governor and his aides to obscure the full scope of nursing home deaths.
Secretary to the Governor Melissa DeRosa, one of the top aides who requested changes to the report, according to The Wall Street Journal, told Democratic lawmakers during a February meeting that the Cuomo administration had purposely undercounted the impact of COVID-19 on nursing home residents out of fear that the Trump administration would politicize the data and use it as a pretext to investigate Cuomo over his handling of the pandemic.
Federal investigators began seeking nursing home data from states in August. The new reports suggest that Cuomo’s aides were taking steps to hide the state’s nursing home data a month earlier. Cuomo’s administration is now facing investigations from the Department of Justice and FBI.
New York state Attorney General Letitia James released a report in January showing that the Cuomo administration had knowingly undercounted the number of deaths from COVID-19 among the state’s nursing home residents by about half. The Cuomo administration had released only the number of nursing home residents who had died from the disease inside of a nursing home, while leaving out those who died after being transferred to a hospital.
Cuomo has been under fire for months over a March 25, 2020, order that barred nursing homes from turning away hospitalized residents and patients based on whether they still had COVID-19. At the time of the order, nursing home industry leaders slammed Cuomo and said the policy would introduce and further the spread of the disease among New York’s elderly. Cuomo repealed the policy over a month later in June.