A bombshell report has revealed that New York Democrat Governor Andrew Cuomo’s top advisers lobbied state health officials to strip a public report which showed that more nursing home and elderly care facility residents had died of the coronavirus than the administration had previously acknowledged.
Sources for The Wall Street Journal disclosed the report, which examined the outbreak of the virus in nursing homes. The report focused only on residents who died inside nursing homes and long-term-care facilities, but left out those who had died in hospitals who had contracted the disease from the facilities.
The report undercounted nursing home deaths at only 6,432. According to one of the sources, the initial version of the report said almost 10,000 nursing-home residents had died from the virus spreading in the facilities in the Empire State. The report demonstrated that the Cuomo administration and state health officials knew a more accurate accounting of out-of-facility nursing-home deaths as early as summer 2020. The Health Department and the Cuomo administration resisted calls by lawmakers, media outlets and families of the victims to release the data for another eight months.
New York state officials now claim that with the numbers added from the hospitals, more than 15,000 residents of nursing homes, other long-term and elderly care facilities have been confirmed or presumed to have died from Covid-19 since March of 2020, a figure which is roughly 50 percent higher than earlier official death tallies.
In February, Federal prosecutors in Brooklyn requested information regarding the nursing home deaths. According to the sources for The Journal, Federal prosecutors specifically asked for this previously undisclosed report. The source added that Cuomo’s staff and state Health Commissioner Howard Zucker agreed the out-of-facility deaths should not be included in the report.
The Health Department updated the report on Feb. 11 to include the out-of-facility deaths. On February 10, Melissa DeRosa, top aide to Democrat Governor Andrew Cuomo apologized to New York Democratic lawmakers for withholding the state’s nursing-home coronavirus death totals. She told them that the administration's staff "froze," fearing the real numbers would "be used against us" by federal prosecutors. The report appear to have been updated the following day.
The Justice Department began requesting information about nursing-home deaths from New York and other Democrat controlled states in August following requests of state lawmakers and people who lost relatives in the facilities following a March 25 Health Department directive which said that nursing homes could not refuse to readmit residents or admit new residents from hospitals who had a positive Covid-19 diagnosis. The order was designed to free up space in area hospitals The Cuomo administration did not rescind the order until May.
According to The Journal, "The July report concluded that nursing homes were already rife with the virus by the time of the March 25 policy and attributed the spread to staff who brought it with them to work."
Several of Mr. Cuomo’s top advisors, who were members of his Covid-19 task force, reviewed and requested changes to the report. Those advisors included DeRosa, Zucker, Jim Malatras, a Cuomo adviser named chancellor of New York’s public college system in August, Eleanor Adams, who until August, worked out of the Health Department’s Metropolitan Area Regional Office and has since become a senior adviser to Dr. Zucker and Linda Lacewell, Superintendent of the New York State Department of Financial Services.
According to the Journal’s sources, the initial version of the report submitted to Cuomo’s team included both data on deaths of nursing-home residents in hospitals and deaths of residents inside nursing homes. Health department officials removed that data, but reportedly pushed back on Cuomo administration requests to alter the report to downplay the March 25 directive in the spread of the virus. The report concluded that the order was “not a significant factor in nursing home fatalities.”
Facility operators objected to the order, but a New York State Health Department spokeswoman Jill Montag said in August that the decision to issue the directive was "made on the merits by the public-health experts at DOH and following (Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services) and (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) guidelines."
Cuomo has refused to resign amid growing pressure over both his administration’s order and the resulting deaths in the facilities and sexual harassment allegations. Republicans and some Democrats have called for the governor to resign from office or be impeached and are working to strip Cuomo of his emergency powers. Cuomo has refused to resign but did apologize for his behavior. The Governor has said that his administration followed federal guidance with regard to the nursing home order to preserve hospital capacity.