New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo is under fire for his handling of the coronavirus’ sweep through the state’s nursing homes.
Cuomo, who was lauded earlier in the outbreak for his handling and transparency of the crisis, is facing questions over the state’s nearly 46,000 deaths, many of which center around nursing homes. The questions arise from New York State Attorney General Letitia James issuing a report in January finding that the New York State Department of Health undercounted Covid-19 deaths among residents of nursing homes by approximately 50 percent, essentially by leaving out deaths of residents who had been transferred to hospitals.
The report left the Cuomo administration scrambling to respond.
“All the deaths in the nursing homes and hospitals were always fully, publicly and accurately reported,” the Democratic governor said, adding that the questions raised are more a desire to launch a “political attack,” rather than hold him accountable.
“What I would say is everyone did the best they could,” Cuomo added during a press conference on January 29. “When I say the State Department of Health — as the report said — the State Department of Health followed federal guidance. So, if you think there was a mistake, then go talk to the federal government. It’s not about pointing fingers or blame. It’s that this became a political football right. Look, whether a person died in a hospital or died in a nursing home. It’s — people died. People died.”
The report has had far-reaching implications, many of which are likely unknown.
In a statement responding to the report, New York’s state health commissioner, Dr. Howard Zucker, noted there was an undercount overall — claiming it was just an issue of classification.
“New York State Department of Health has always publicly reported the number of fatalities within hospitals irrespective of the residence of the patient, and separately reported the number of fatalities within nursing home facilities and has been clear about the nature of that reporting,” the State Department of Health said in a statement. “The Attorney General’s initial findings of wrongdoing by certain nursing home operators are reprehensible and this is exactly why we asked the Attorney General to undertake this investigation in the first place. To that end, DOH continues to follow up on all allegations of misconduct by operators and is actively working in partnership with the [Office of Attorney General] to enforce the law accordingly.”