New York Governor Andrew Cuomo’s top advisers pushed state health officials to remove damning data from a July public report on the spread of COVID-19 in the state’s nursing homes.
The deaths far exceeded the state’s original tally of 6,432 nursing home fatalities. State officials believe the real death toll is more than double that number–roughly 15,000.
The July report, which examined the factors that led to the spread of the virus in nursing homes, focused only on residents who died inside long-term-care facilities, leaving out those who had died in hospitals after becoming sick in nursing homes. As a result, the report said 6,432 nursing-home residents had died—a significant undercount of the death toll attributed to the state’s most vulnerable population, the people said. The initial version of the report said nearly 10,000 nursing-home residents had died in New York by July last year, one of the people said.
The changes Mr. Cuomo’s aides and health officials made to the nursing-home report, which haven’t been previously disclosed, reveal that the state possessed a fuller accounting of out-of-facility nursing-home deaths as early as the summer. The Health Department resisted calls by state and federal lawmakers, media outlets and others to release the data for another eight months.
New York Department of Health spokesman Gary Holmes issued the following statement in response to the news:
“This report, which establishes that the March 25 advisory was not a driver of nursing home deaths, was a collaborative process between DOH and the COVID task force. The report’s purpose was to ensure the public had a clear non-political evaluation for how COVID entered nursing homes at the height of the pandemic. All data sets reviewed came to a common conclusion – that spread from staff was likely the primary driver that introduced COVID into these nursing homes. While early versions of the report included out of facility deaths, the COVID task force was not satisfied that the data had been verified against hospital data and so the final report used only data for in facility deaths, which was disclosed in the report. While the out of facility deaths were held aside for verification, the conclusions were supported by both data sets. DOH was comfortable with the final report and believes fully in its conclusion that the primary driver that introduced COVID into the nursing homes was spread brought in by staff. Even Bill Hammond of the conservative think tank Empire Center found that the March 25 advisory was not a primary driver of COVID in nursing homes. The decision was made to initially release the report without the out of facility data and to later update the report to include the out of facility deaths. This was done in February and as Dr. Zucker had testified to the legislature, the conclusions remained the same as in July.”
Democratic New York Assemblyman Ron Kim reacted to the breaking report, calling the actions of the Cuomo advisors “criminal.”
“This is criminal,” Kim wrote on Twitter. “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
Kim previously claimed that he was threatened by Cuomo for his criticism of the state’s COVID-19 nursing home policy.
For the full report, click HERE.