New York officials altered COVID-19 nursing home death numbers: reports


Published: 2021-03-05 11:34

Last Updated: 2021-04-10 16:05

Credit: FOX8
Credit: FOX8

According to the Wall Street Jounal and The New York Times, top aides to Governor Andrew Cuomo have altered a state Health Department report to conceal the actual number of coronavirus death in nursing homes.

According to the aforementioned newspapers, who cited official documents and inquired with individuals involved in the administation's internal discussion; the aides, including Cuomo's secretary, Melissa DeRosa, forced health officials to alter reports from July to only include deaths of residents who passed away within long-term facilities, while leaving out those residents who became ill and later died at hospitals.

According to Al-Arabiya, the report was created and published to disprove criticism of the governor over his directive from March. 25, which denied nursing homes from rejecting recovering coronavirus patients being discharged from hospitals. Moreover, several nursing homes complained at the time that the policy could help spread the coronavirus.

The report concluded that the policy played no role whatsoever in spreading COVID-19.

The state’s analysis was based partly on what officials acknowledged at the time was an imprecise statistic. The report claimed that 6,432 people had died in the New York nursing homes.

In turn, officials acknowledged that the true number of deaths was in fact, much higher due to the exclusion of those who died from the virus in medical institutions. However, they declined to provide any estimates of the actual number of deaths, claiming that numbers still need to be verified.

The aforementioned newspapers reported that, in fact, the original report drafts had actually included that number (more than 9,200 deaths), until Cuomo’s aides said it should be excluded.

Thursday, state officials insisted that these amendments were made due to accuracy concerns and not to protect the governors reputation.

In turn, the Department of Health spokesperson Gary Holmes said: “While early versions of the report included out of facility deaths, the COVID-19 task force was not satisfied that the data had been verified against hospital data and so the final report used only data for in facility deaths, which was disclosed in the report.”

Medical experts, specialists and elected officials in turn, assailed the report at the time for its flawed methodology, its shortcomings, and its biased statistics which watered down the actual impact of the Cuomo's directive.

For months, Cuomo refused to release any complete data on how the early stages of the coronavirus crisis affected nursing home residents. Notably, a court order and state attorney general report January, forced state officials to acknowledge that the death toll of nursing home residents death was way higher than the public count.

Earlier this month, DeRosa told lawmakers that the administration did not declare the data to lawmakers in August due to the worries that the information could be used against them by the previous Trump administration, which had recently launched a Justice Department investigation of nursing home deaths.

She said: “Basically, we froze, because then we were in a position where we weren’t sure if what we were going to give to the Department of Justice or what we give to you guys, what we start saying was going to be used against us while we weren’t sure if there was going to be an investigation.” 

Notably, Cuomo alongside his health commissioner Howard Zucker, defended the March 25 directive recently, stating that it was the best option to help create additional capacity at state hospitals.

Zucker said Feb. 19: “We made the right public health decision at the time. And faced with the same facts, we would make the same decision again.”

New York currently acknowledges that around 15,000 long-term care residents have died, compared to a figure of 8,700 it had once publicized late January that did not include those who died after being transferred to hospitals.