Cuomo underreported COVID nursing home deaths by up to 50%, New York AG finds
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NEW YORK, January 28, 2021 (LifeSiteNews) — Democrat New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s administration undercounted COVID-19 deaths in nursing homes by as much as half, according to a report released Thursday by state Attorney General Letitia James, also a Democrat.
For months, New York was the hardest hit of any state by the pandemic, due in large part to the coronavirus spreading within the state’s nursing homes, where more than 8,500 deaths have been officially reported as of January. Cuomo ordered that nursing homes cannot turn away patients diagnosed with COVID-19, despite the fact the virus is most dangerous to the elderly.
The attorney general’s office report found that while state health officials only publicly reported deaths that took place inside nursing homes (as opposed to patients who got sick inside but didn’t die until being transferred to a hospital), they collected data on deaths outside homes as well, indicating a “significantly higher number of resident COVID-19 deaths can be identified than is reflected” in the public tally. The attorney general’s office “is investigating those circumstances where the discrepancies cannot reasonably be accounted for by error or the difference in the question posed.”
The report also identifies deficiencies in the nursing homes themselves, concluding that “clearly, some facilities were not prepared to handle outbreaks through early and effective training or staffing,” including inadequate personal protective equipment (PPE), inadequate screening of staff for COVID and employees being made to continue working with residents despite displaying symptoms, and too few employees to adequately care for their patients.
“On March 1, 21 percent of New York’s 619 nursing homes had very low Staffing and/or Overall” ratings with the U.S. Centers for Medicaid and Medicare Services, which reflect the “number of staffing hours in the nursing department of a facility relative to the number of residents,” the report noted. “ Nursing homes that entered the pandemic with low (CMS staffing ratings) had higher COVID-19 fatality rates than facilities with higher CMS Staffing ratings.”
Cuomo initially tried to blame nursing home deaths on the Trump administration by claiming that a federal Centers for Disease Control (CDC) guidance forced him to put the infected back in nursing homes. But Rep. Elise Stefanik (R-New York) explained that the CDC actually called for elderly housing decisions to be made on a case-by-case basis, factoring in the “ability of the accepting facility to meet the recommended infection control practices,” such as the “ability to place residents in a designated COVID-19 care unit that is equipped with the resources and (personal protective equipment) to safely prevent the spread of infections.”
Cuomo’s placement of individuals known to be infectious among the state’s most vulnerable contrasts sharply with the extreme measures New York leaders have taken to prevent spreading the virus in less risky situations, such as restricting in-person religious services.
Despite his overall handling of the pandemic, Cuomo had enjoyed a media narrative presenting him as a model leader, which Cuomo took advantage of to release a book on “Leadership Lessons From the COVID-19 Pandemic,” touting his self-professed “clear communication, compassion for others, and a commitment to truth-telling.”