The disgraced administration of New York Governor Andrew Cuomo confirmed on Thursday that thousands more nursing home residents have died of COVID-19 than official state tallies had previously acknowledged, bringing a new blow to his image as a hero of the pandemic.
The surprise development, after months of the state refusing to release its true numbers, showed at least 12,743 long-term care residents have died from the virus as of Jan. 19, far more than the official tally of 8,505. that day, a 49 percent jump, cementing New York’s toll as one of the highest in the nation.
Those numbers are consistent with a report released hours earlier by state Attorney General Letitia James blaming nursing home deaths at 49% lower, largely because New York is one of the only states to count only those who died on the grounds of the facility. , not those who died later in the hospital.
The report also said James was putting 20 state nursing homes under closer scrutiny as the investigation continues.
“While we cannot bring back the people we have lost in this crisis, this report seeks to provide the transparency the public deserves,” James said in a statement.
The 76-page report from a fellow Democrat undermined Cuomo’s frequent argument that criticism of his handling of the virus in nursing homes was part of a political ‘blame game’, and it was a vindication for thousands of families who believed their loved ones were being omitted from the counts to further the governor’s image as a pandemic hero.
New York Governor Andrew Cuomo underestimated deaths in nursing homes during the pandemic
The report was authored by New York Attorney General Letitia James, long considered a Cuomo antagonist.
“It’s important to me that my mother be counted,” said Vivian Zayas, whose 78-year-old mother died in April after contracting COVID-19 at a nursing home in West Islip, New York. “Families like mine knew those numbers weren’t correct.”
Cuomo’s office referred all questions to the state health department. Several hours after the report, State Department of Health Commissioner Howard Zucker issued a lengthy statement attempting to refute James’ report but essentially confirming its central conclusion.
Zucker’s figure of 12,743 nursing home resident deaths included for the first time 3,829 confirmed COVID-19 deaths among residents who had been transported to hospitals.
Those numbers could be even higher, but the health department said its audit was ongoing, did not report deaths suspected but not confirmed to be caused by the virus, and omitted those in assisted living facilities. or other types of long-term care facilities.
Zucker, however, has always disputed James’ characterization of his department’s official tally as an “undercount.” He said “the DOH has always been clear that the data on its website relates to facility deaths.”
“The word ‘undercount’ implies that there are more deaths than have been reported; this is factually false. In fact, the OAG report itself rejects the suggestion that there was an ‘undercount’ of the total number of deaths,” he said.
New York Republicans have called on Zucker to step down in the past.
Andrew Cuomo, alleged sexual harasser, abuser and former New York state governor, was ordered to repay all the money, totaling approximately $5 million, he earned from writing and selling from “American Crisis: Leadership Lessons from the COVID-19 Pandemic”. ‘
Cuomo was replaced by his lieutenant governor, Kathy Hochul, after a sexual harassment scandal in August 2021
James has been looking for months at discrepancies between the number of deaths reported by the state Department of Health and the number of deaths reported by homes themselves.
Its investigators looked at a sample of 62 of the state’s roughly 600 nursing homes. They reported 1,914 resident deaths from COVID-19, while the state Department of Health recorded only 1,229 deaths at those same facilities.
Thursday’s publication confirmed the findings of an Associated Press investigation last year that found the state may be underreporting deaths by up to 65 percent.
State Sen. Gustavo Rivera, a Democrat who has criticized the Cuomo administration for its incomplete death count, said he was “unfortunately not surprised” by the report.
“Families who have lost loved ones deserve honest answers,” Rivera said. “For their sake, I hope this report helps us uncover the truth and put policies in place to prevent such tragedies in the future.”
At least 12,743 long-term care residents have died from the virus as of January 19, far more than the official tally of 8,505 that day
Dr. Howard A. Zucker, Commissioner of the New York State Department of Health
Cuomo, who published a book last fall touting his leadership in the fight against the virus, was quick to use New York’s lower nursing home death toll to argue that his state is doing better. than others to care for those in these facilities.
The ex-governor was ordered to repay all the money, totaling about $5 million, that he made from writing and selling “American Crisis: Leadership Lessons from the COVID-19 Pandemic.”
Cuomo’s book touted his supposed leadership in the early days of the pandemic, as chief executive of the Empire State.
The hugely profitable New York Times bestseller stuck in the croak of many as Cuomo is also accused of rampant and worse sexual harassment as governor, as well as allegedly covering up the full extent of nursing home deaths related to the pandemic under his supervision.
“There’s no doubt that we’re in this hyper-political environment, so everybody wants to point fingers,” Cuomo told CBS’ This Morning in October. “New York, in fact, we’re number 46 out of 50 in terms of the percentage of deaths in nursing homes…it’s not a primarily New York issue.”
The attorney general’s report also took aim at New York’s controversial March 25 policy that sought to create more space in hospitals by releasing recovering COVID-19 patients to nursing homes, which critics say , was a driving factor in nursing home outbreaks.
James’ report said these admissions “may have contributed to an increased risk of nursing home residents becoming infected and subsequently dying,” noting that at least 4,000 nursing home residents with COVID- 19 died after this orientation. But James’ report says the matter would require further study to conclusively prove such a link.
New York’s health department released a much-criticized report last summer that said the March 25 policy, which was rescinded in May, was “not a significant factor” in deaths.
James’ review also found that a lack of infection control in nursing homes put residents at increased risk of harm, that homes with lower federal staff scores had higher death rates. and that a sweeping measure Cuomo signed in April protecting nursing homes and other health care providers from lawsuits may actually have encouraged homes to withhold hiring and training.
“As the pandemic and our investigations continue,” she wrote, “it is imperative that we understand why New York City nursing home residents have suffered unnecessarily at such an alarming rate.”