New York Governor Andrew Cuomo speaks to reporters on Jan. 23 during a press conference at a COVID-19 pop-up vaccination center in Brooklyn. Cuomo has defended government reporting of deaths in nursing homes. Mary Altaffer / AP Hide caption
Mary Altaffer / AP
Mary Altaffer / AP
Amid allegations that the state underestimated the number of coronavirus deaths in nursing homes, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo said Monday that everything that was reported was correct – albeit delayed.
“All deaths in nursing homes and hospitals have always been fully, publicly and accurately reported,” Cuomo said. “The numbers were the numbers. Always.”
A attorney general’s report last month found that the death toll was much higher than officials reported – perhaps as much as 50%. This is partly because the New York Department of Health figures didn’t include many people who died of COVID-19 in hospitals after being moved from their nursing homes.
Within hours of the report’s release, the state released new data showing an additional 3,800 deaths – residents of nursing homes who died in hospitals. More than 15,000 people have died of coronavirus in state nursing homes and long-term care facilities.
Cuomo said Monday that the state had released the numbers to which he had immediate access at the time; Answering requests for information about the place of death took longer.
“We put the state parliament’s request on hold while we were finalizing the DOJ’s request,” said Cuomo.
That delay was due in part to the state engaging in a federal Justice Department investigation, Cuomo said. Health officials decided to focus on this data request before responding to the legislature’s request for more information.
“Everyone was busy,” said Cuomo. “We’re in the process of dealing with a pandemic. There has been a delay in making all of this additional information available to the press and the public.”
Cuomo said the fact that the state was not immediately provided with the requested data created a “void” of facts that allowed misinformation to flourish.
“Should we have given more priority to fulfilling information requests in hindsight? In my opinion, yes, and I think that created the void,” he said. “But do I understand the pressure everyone was under? Yes.”
A top Cuomo adviser, Melissa DeRosa, had told state lawmakers that “we froze” when asked about the actual number of nursing home deaths, and feared they were “against” by a hostile White House government us, “reported the New York Post. The governor’s office later confirmed the report.
Cuomo has also come under fire in recent days after an Associated Press report found that New York had sent more than 9,000 recovered coronavirus patients from hospitals to nursing homes in the early days of the pandemic.
A report by the New York DOH argued that readmissions may not have contributed to the spread of the coronavirus in nursing homes. “These patients couldn’t be responsible for introducing COVID into their nursing home because they had COVID before they went to hospital for treatment and before they were readmitted,” the report said.
Additionally, the report states that “most of the patients” who were re-admitted to nursing homes were likely no longer infectious by that point.