New York Attorney General Letitia James published a document on Thursday claiming the state’s Department of Health underreported COVID-19 deaths in nursing homes by as much as 50%. The study comes after controversy regarding New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s decision to compel nursing homes to take on elderly patients infected with the virus, which resulted in a significant number of fatalities.
The attorney general’s 76-page report resulted from an investigation into allegations that nursing homes failed to follow coronavirus safety procedures. James’ office also examined discrepancies between the nursing home fatality numbers from the Department of Health and the amount reported by the facilities – and what they found was distressing. The document explained that COVID deaths in some facilities rose by more than 50% when residents who died in the hospital rather than the nursing home were added to the count. The state’s official death toll for these facilities – more than 8,700 – excludes patients who died after being taken to the hospital.
New York State Health Commissioner Dr. Howard Zucker released a statement claiming that the department separately recorded coronavirus deaths that occurred in nursing homes.
“DOH has consistently made clear that our numbers are reported based on the place of death,” he explained. “DOH does not disagree that the number of people transferred from a nursing home to a hospital is an important data point, and is in the midst of auditing this data from nursing homes.”
Zucker noted that while the audit is still ongoing, preliminary findings show that the virus killed at least 9,700 nursing home residents. The commissioner then blamed the Trump administration for the apparent confusion, claiming that it did not provide adequate guidance to the states.
The Political Ramifications
The attorney general’s report will likely put another black mark on Gov. Cuomo’s handling of the pandemic. The governor has frequently boasted of his team’s response to the coronavirus and has received little but plaudits from the activist press.
Cuomo has frequently dismissed criticism of the missteps made by his administration in dealing with the virus. Like his health commissioner, he often deflected by blaming his team’s ineptitude on the Trump administration. But when he began forcing nursing homes to accept infected patients, he could not use the White House to distract from his faulty decisions.
“As the pandemic and our investigations continue, it is imperative that we understand why the residents of nursing homes in New York unnecessarily suffered at such an alarming rate,” James insisted in a statement. “While we cannot bring back the individuals we lost to this crisis, this report seeks to offer transparency that the public deserves and to spur increased action to protect our most vulnerable residents.”
It appears that Cuomo might not only have to worry about criticism from Republicans but from Democrats as well. While James’ office is doing its job and exposing the flawed presentation of the data regarding COVID deaths, it is difficult to ignore the political ramifications of such a move, especially for James, who has gained attention in the past for her effort to destroy the National Rifle Association.
Much of the activist media will likely ignore this story for obvious reasons – they spent the better part of 2020 telling their audience that Gov. Cuomo handled the virus like a superstar. Figures like these could shatter the image of Cuomo that they worked so hard to craft.
Still, the content of the report cannot be buried so easily, especially since so many New Yorkers lost loved ones due to the governor’s decision. But that will not stop them from trying, will it?
Read more from Jeff Charles.