Cuomo advisers altered COVID-19 nursing homes report: WSJ

Advisers to New York Gov. (D) pushed state health officials to alter a public report from July over COVID-19 deaths in nursing homes, people with knowledge of the report’s production told The Wall Street Journal.

The report focused only on residents who died inside long-term care facilities and didn’t include those who died in hospitals after becoming sick in nursing homes. The report said that 6,432 nursing home residents had died, which was an undercount of the death toll, the sources told the newspaper.

The report in question came as a result of a study from the New York State Department of Health (DOH) into the impact of a March directive which stated that nursing homes couldn’t refuse to readmit residents or admit new residents from hospitals simply due to a COVID-19 diagnosis. 

According to the newspaper, the report shifted the blame of the virus’s spread to staff who brought the virus with them to work.

The initial version of the report included data on deaths of nursing home residents inside of homes, as well as deaths that occurred in hospitals, the Journal reported. However, members of Cuomo’s COVID-19 task force, which included Secretary to the Governor Melissa DeRosa, requested that the report downplay the role of the March directive, which was rejected.

According to the Journal, the published report said the directive was “not a significant factor in nursing home fatalities.”

Garvey told the Journal that task force members didn’t request the change to the report, but were “very cautious to not overstate the statistical analysis presented in the report. Overall, ensuring public confidence in the conclusion was the ultimate goal of DOH and the Covid task force in issuing the report.”

The Journal’s report comes as Cuomo faces mounting calls for his resignation amid his handling of COVID-19 deaths in nursing homes, as well as allegations of inappropriate behavior from staff members.

State lawmakers came to an agreement on Tuesday to strip Cuomo of his pandemic-related emergency powers amid the controversies.

New York Attorney General Letitia James (D) released a report in January which found that Cuomo’s administration underreported nursing home deaths by as much as 50 percent, and faulted the March directive.

According to the Journal, the July report is of interest in a federal probe into the Cuomo administration’s handling of COVID-19 in nursing homes.

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