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Extent Cuomo aides went to obscured COVID deaths in senior facilities larger than known, report

The most recent numbers show over 15,500 New York nursing home residents with the virus have died.

Updated: April 29, 2021 - 9:28am

The Facts Inside Our Reporter’s Notebook

The attempts by the office of New York Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo to obscure the high number of COVID-19 deaths in nursing homes across the state were more far-reaching than previously known, according to a recent news report. 

Cuomo aides repeatedly over roughly five months overruling state health officials on virus-number issues, The New York Times reported Wednesday, based on interviews and newly discovered documents.

Cuomo’s most senior aides, in fact, made a sustained effort to keep state Department of Health Commissioner Howard Zucker and other health officials from making public the accurate death toll or sharing it with state lawmakers, the newspaper says the interviews and documents show.

Early in the pandemic, the Cuomo administration put in place a policy that required assisted-living facilities to allow residents who had been treated at hospitals to return, in an attempt to ease the burden on crowded hospitals, which resulted in a high number of deaths among that population. 

The Democratic governor was lauded nationally for controlling the virus at an early pandemic hotspot, while the COVID deaths at the facilities were sharply increasing.  

Cuomo rescinded the policy about two months later. But his administration did not include the related deaths in overall counts, arguing that parsing whether assisted-living patients died in a facility or hospital could result in double counting.

The most recent numbers show over 15,500 New York nursing home residents with the virus have died.

The Democratic governor was lauded nationally for controlling the virus at an early pandemic hotspot, while the COVID deaths in New York nursing homes were rapidly increasing.  

A scientific paper, which incorporated such data, was never published. And an audit of the numbers by a top Cuomo aide was finished months before it became publicly known. In addition, two letters, drafted by the Health Department and meant for state legislators, were never sent, the newspaper also reports.

The apparent efforts to obscure numbers occurred while Cuomo was pitching, then writing a book on the pandemic, with the assistance of top aide Melissa DeRosa and others.

State Attorney General Letitia James is looking into whether Cuomo misused state resources to write the book, worth a purported $4 million.

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