(The Center Square) – A bombshell report by New York Attorney General Letitia James claims the Cuomo administration dramatically underreported the number of nursing home deaths due to COVID-19, and
Republican leaders are calling for resignations at the highest levels.
The report by James’ office requested data from 62 nursing homes, roughly 10 percent of the state’s facilities. It indicates that the state Department of Health did not count nursing home residents who contracted the virus, were sent to hospitals and died there as part of the nursing home death toll.
The facilities reported 1,914 deaths to the Attorney General’s office, yet the Department of Health reported 1,229, an undercount of nearly 56 percent.
In a statement, James said it was important to understand why nursing home residents “unnecessarily suffered” at a high rate and vowed to protect them and workers at the facilities.
“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,” she said. “Nursing homes residents and workers deserve to live and work in safe environments.”
The report indicates that more than 20 facilities remain under investigation for abuse and neglect discovered during the initial inquiry. That includes allegations not related to COVID-19.
The administration had been under heavy criticism for how it handled nursing homes at the beginning of the crisis as it required the facilities to accept coronavirus-positive patients to alleviate the pressure on hospitals.
An administration report, though, had countered that those patients did not lead to the deaths within the facilities. Instead, it was coronavirus-positive staff and visitors at the beginning of the pandemic that led to those fatalities.
James’ report states that the administration’s mandate “may have put residents at increased risk” and “may have obscured” data needed to determine the risk. It also noted the lack of protective gear for staff at the beginning of the crisis also put residents at greater risk.
The attorney general also recommended doing away with immunity provisions given to for-profit providers, saying doing so gives them financial incentives to boost staffing to properly care for staff and buy the gear needed to properly protect staff and residents.
Senate Minority Leader Rob Ortt, R-North Tonawanda, said the Department of Health betrayed the public’s trust and called on Commissioner Dr. Howard Zucker’s resignation.
“For months, Governor Cuomo and his administration have refused to be transparent or take any responsibility for actions they have taken during this public health crisis – including the deadly March 25, 2020 order to send COVID-positive patients into nursing homes,” he said.
Rensselaer County Executive Steve McLaughlin went a step further in a statement on his personal Twitter account.
“Make absolutely no mistake: this lie was perpetrated by Cuomo and Zucker,” he said. “It was done to make Cuomo look like the exact opposite of what he is.... a leader. He and his entire administration are frauds. He needs to resign.”
U.S. Rep. Elise Stefanik, R-N.Y., called for the U.S. Department of Justice to investigate.
"I am calling on the New York Attorney General and the U.S. Department of Justice to issue subpoenas immediately of Governor Cuomo and his entire staff on all documentation and internal and external communications, including with any and all associations and lobbyists who have direct ties to the Governor’s senior team related to this corrupt and illegal coverup," she said in a statement.
The administration faced criticism from Democrats, too. State Sen. Gustavo Rivera, D-Bronx, the chairman of the Senate Health Committee, described himself as "sadly unsurprised" by the attorney general's report.
"[I]t is critical that the Cuomo administration finally releases accurate data on nursing home deaths, which my colleagues and I have been requesting for months," Rivera said in a statement. "Families who have lost loves ones deserve honest answers."
published here with permission of