Two new reports say top aides to New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo deliberately altered a state report to cover up how many nursing home residents had died from COVID-19 and that the cover-up began months earlier than has been reported.
“The central role played by the governor’s top aides reflected the lengths to which Mr. Cuomo has gone in the middle of a deadly pandemic to control data, brush aside public health expertise and bolster his position as a national leader in the fight against the coronavirus,” The New York Times reported Thursday.
In a similar report, The Wall Street Journal said intervention by Cuomo’s aides to leave out people who had died in hospitals after becoming sick in nursing homes resulted in a change from nearly 10,000 deaths to 6,432 in a July report.
“This is criminal,” Democratic Assemblyman Ron Kim tweeted late Thursday. “The Gov’s top advisors pushed state health officials to strip a public report of the data showing more nursing home deaths. The changes Cuomo’s aides made to the report reveal that they had the fuller accounting of NH deaths as early as the summer of 2020.”
This is criminal.
The Gov’s top advisors pushed state health officials to strip a public report of the data showing more nursing home deaths.
The changes Cuomo’s aides made to the report reveal that they had the fuller accounting of NH deaths as early as the summer of 2020. https://t.co/OxR9TEcXCy
— Ron T. Kim (@rontkim) March 5, 2021
15,000 nursing home residents died.
15,000 of our loved ones died.
And Cuomo hid the numbers.
— Ron T. Kim (@rontkim) March 5, 2021
Kim was among the legislators expressing outrage upon learning from New York Attorney General Letitia James that the Cuomo administration had suppressed the nursing home death numbers by as much as 50 percent. An uncle of Kim’s died in a nursing home from COVID-19.
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Cuomo’s secretary, Melissa DeRosa, told top Democrats in a private video call that the state kept the real data secret to evade a potential Trump administration investigation that emerged in August, according to a bombshell New York Post report last month.
The cover-up began earlier, according to The Times, which said that all through June, efforts were made to lowball the numbers in the report released in July. The outlet said it interviewed “six people with direct knowledge of the discussions, who requested anonymity to describe the closed-door debates.”
The Times noted that the effort to suppress the data coincided with Cuomo’s decision to write a book extolling his success at controlling the pandemic.
It said initial drafts of the state report showed nursing home deaths were 50 percent higher than what the Cuomo administration was saying publicly.
The Times said differences over what data should be in the report causes tensions between health officials and Cuomo staffers, who included DeRosa; Linda Lacewell, the head of the state’s Department of Financial Services; and Jim Malatras, a former top aide who worked on the state’s COVID-19 response.
The Journal report said Health Commissioner Dr. Howard Zucker also played a role in revising the report.
As I have long said, this is a criminal corruption coverup scandal at the highest levels of New York State government.
— Elise Stefanik (@EliseStefanik) March 5, 2021
Beth Garvey, a special counsel and senior adviser to Cuomo, responded to reports with a statement that said, “The out-of-facility data was omitted after [the Department of Health] could not confirm it had been adequately verified.”
Garvey said the data did not change the conclusions of the report, which said a Cuomo order forcing nursing homes to accept COVID-19 patients was not linked to the deaths of nursing home residents from the disease.
Federal/CDC guidelines said nursing homes *can* accept COVID+ patients if they were equipped to handle it.
Cuomo’s directive said nursing homes *must* accept them – and he made sure they had legal immunity so they couldn’t be held accountable by families who lost loved ones.
— Alessandra Biaggi (@Biaggi4NY) March 5, 2021
The Times said the draft report made it clear that “a significant number of residents died after being transferred to hospitals.”
Zucker knew about the data in June, The Times reported, but told legislators in August they were not yet ready.
“That’s a problem, bro,” Democratic state Sen. Gustavo Rivera said in an August hearing. “It seems, sir, that, in this case, you are choosing to define it differently so that you can look better.”
In a statement, Gary Holmes, a spokesman for the Health Department, said the numbers were not ready for the report.
The Times characterized the process of drafting the report as contentious and said the higher numbers were in the report until DeRosa and Lacewell knew about them. They then disappeared.
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