New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo is facing accusations of undercounting coronavirus related deaths in the state’s nursing homes by as much as 50 per cent, according to a report from the state’s attorney general, Letitia James.
The finding was based on data collected from 62 nursing homes, and contradicts Cuomo’s claims during earlier months of the pandemic that the fatality rates in the state were among the lowest in the country.
During his press conferences, Cuomo claimed that New York had a 20 per cent fatality rate in nursing homes, often bragging that the numbers were lower than states including Pennsylvania, Massachusetts and New Jersey.
“Look at the basic facts where New York is versus other states,” said Cuomo in an August press conference. “You look at where New York is as a percentage of nursing home deaths, it’s all the way at the bottom of the list.”
When critics accused him of not being completely honest with the statistics, the governor accused them of playing politics and suggested that they look into the numbers of Republican-run states like Florida, Texas and Arizona.
“Go talk to 34 other states first. Go talk to the Republican states now — Florida, Texas, Arizona — ask them what is happening in nursing homes. It’s all politics,” said Cuomo last July, per the Daily Caller.
According to the attorney general’s report, the New York Department of Health initially put the estimated nursing home deaths at just over 6,000. However, analysis from James’s office would suggest that the actual number of deaths is around 9,000.
According to the Daily Caller, the New York Department of Health admitted last May that it was undercounting deaths of nursing home residents who died of COVID-19. An official told the news outlet that the numbers did not include residents who died after being transferred to a hospital.
The staggering numbers of nursing home deaths in New York have been widely attributed to Cuomo’s executive order to readmit nursing home residents from hospitals who had already been diagnosed with COVID-19, placing existing residents at “increased risk of harm.”
The report suggests that as many as 4,000 nursing home deaths occurred after Cuomo’s guidance was issued on March 25. The report does not explicitly blame the deaths on Cuomo’s order, which was ultimately rescinded in May in response to widespread condemnation, but notes that deaths in 323 nursing home facilities “apparently had no reported COVID-19 infections before receiving admissions or re-admissions of hospital residents who had been diagnosed with COVID-19.”
The report adds that further data is needed to determine the full impact of Cuomo’s actions, but finds that Cuomo’s order “may have contributed to increased risk of nursing home resident infection, and subsequent fatalities.”
The nursing home policy was allegedly put into place to help alleviate the burden hospitals were facing at the time due to a lack of beds. New York’s hospitals were at full capacity and were expected to face a further influx of sick patients.