New York refuses to release data on COVID nursing home deaths until after election
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ALBANY, New York, September 2, 2020 (LifeSiteNews) – In a move critics say is an attempt to avoid scrutiny of Democrat Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s decision to force nursing homes to hold in coronavirus patients regardless of the danger to their elderly residents, New York health officials say they cannot provide data on nursing home deaths until after the presidential election in November.
As of September 2, the United States is estimated to have seen more than 6.2 million COVID-19 cases, an estimated 45 percent of which have come from nursing homes. New York has been one of the hardest-hit states, with more than 33,000 deaths, thanks in large part to the virus spreading within the state’s nursing homes.
For months, the pro-abortion Cuomo has been under fire for ordering that nursing homes cannot turn away patients diagnosed with COVID-19, despite the fact the virus is most dangerous to the elderly. On August 26, the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) requested that New York and several other states whose governors made similar decisions supply their COVID-19 data to help determine “whether to initiate investigations under the federal ‘Civil Rights of Institutionalized Persons Act’ (CRIPA), which protects the civil rights of persons in state-run nursing homes, among others.”
“Protecting the rights of some of society’s most vulnerable members, including elderly nursing home residents, is one of our country’s most important obligations,” Assistant Attorney General for Civil Rights Division Eric Dreiband said. “We must ensure they are adequately cared for with dignity and respect and not unnecessarily put at risk.”
Cuomo responded Monday by dismissing the request as “all politics,” CBS New York reported. “There are about 14 states in the country that followed the same CDC guidance,” he said. “The letter only went to four Democratic states.”
Cuomo has repeatedly claimed 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.”
Perhaps more significantly, the the New York Health Department responded to another request for the data, this one from the Empire Center for Public Policy, by claiming it cannot yet send the data “because a diligent search for relevant documents is still being conducted, and “estimat(ing) that this Office will complete its process by November 5, 2020,” the New York Post reported – two days after the U.S. presidential and congressional elections.
“A search of any kind should not be necessary,” responded Empire Center health analyst Bill Hammond, who explained that state nursing homes are already required to file daily reports pertaining to the COVID-19 outbreak, including death counts.
“Those numbers are the basis for the partial count that the department does make public – which stood at 6,639 as of Aug. 29, but omits potentially thousands of residents who died in hospitals,” Hammond noted. “It makes it hard to compare New York to other states, or to gauge the merits of particular policies, such as the Health Department’s much-debated March 25 directive compelling nursing homes to accept coronavirus-positive patients being discharged from hospitals.”
The Cuomo administration has “been stonewalling for months,” New York state Assemblyman Rom Kim, a fellow Democrat, complained. “This is just a way to make sure the governor doesn’t look bad.”
Cuomo’s placement of individuals known to be infectious among the state’s most vulnerable residents 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.