New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s office hid the coronavirus death toll in the state’s nursing homes for months, often in direct defiance of state health officials, according to a new report from the New York Times.
Senior aides attempted to prevent the New York State Health Department from releasing the true number of senior citizens who died in nursing homes from COVID-19 for at least five months beginning in the spring of 2020, according to interviews and documents reviewed by the Times.
The push to conceal the number of nursing home deaths came after Cuomo signed an executive order in March of 2020 forcing long-term care centers to house COVID-positive residents.
The order may have caused thousands of additional deaths that have not been reported by Cuomo’s administration, according to an analysis by the Empire Center, an Albany-based think tank.
The New York State Health Department tried to release the total numbers, saying approximately 35% of all coronavirus deaths had occurred in the state’s nursing homes. But the department’s draft was not released.
Instead, Cuomo’s administration published a report claiming only 21% of all coronavirus deaths in New York occurred in the state’s nursing homes.
Cuomo’s administration then asked the New York State Health Department to review its findings. When the review was completed in September, the department reported that its findings remained unchanged.
However, Cuomo’s office never released that report and did not ask for another one until Oct. 12, one day before Cuomo’s book about fighting the pandemic was released.
The complete data set on nursing home deaths in New York was not released until earlier this year after a lawsuit by Empire State forced Cuomo’s administration to hand over all the relevant material.
Elkan Abramowitz, who is representing Cuomo’s office, claimed the governor’s administration held on to the true death toll because they were unsure if the numbers from the health department were reliable.
“The chamber was never satisfied that the numbers that they were getting from DOH were accurate,” Abramowitz told the Times.