Following an aide’s admission that the true number of COVID-19 deaths in nursing homes was withheld, New York Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo was on defense at a press conference Monday, insisting his administration “fully reported” the figures.
However, unlike other states, New York did not include in its tally the nursing home residents who died after being transported to a hospital.
Cuomo admitted Monday that requests for data on deaths in nursing homes “should have been prioritized” sooner, but his press conference may only have inflamed the scandal, drawing rebuke from a member of his own party.
Democratic state Assemblyman Ron Kim, whose uncle died in a New York nursing home of COVID-19, already has asked for an apology from Cuomo. And Monday’s press conference only made things worse.
“Gov Cuomo just blamed my uncle for dying of COVID in a nursing home and blamed my family for not being tough enough to deal with it,” Kim wrote on Twitter.
Gov Cuomo just blamed my uncle for dying of COVID in a nursing home and blamed my family for not being tough enough to deal with it.
— Ron T. Kim (@rontkim) February 15, 2021
Cuomo insisted his controversial March 25 order that nursing homes accept coronavirus patients should not be blamed for the spike in deaths, speculating that the virus entered through staff members.
The virus “did not get into the nursing homes by people coming from hospitals,” he said.
Cuomo said there were “distortions” of his directive by opponents and media amid a “toxic political environment.”
Last week, the New York Post broke the story that top Cuomo aide Melissa DeRosa disclosed at a meeting with Democratic state legislators that the administration withheld for months the full count of nursing home residents who died from COVID-19 because the true figures would be “used against us” in a Justice Department investigation. In late January, Cuomo’s Health Department started “coming clean” about nursing home deaths, the Post reported, after a scathing investigative report by state Attorney General Letitia James concluding the administration under-reported COVID-19 nursing home resident deaths by 50% by excluding residents who died in hospitals.
Janice Dean, a Fox News meteorologist whose husband’s parents both died of COVID-19 in a New York nursing home last spring, also had strong words for Cuomo after Monday’s presser.
“We are not confused governor. There are no conspiracy theories. You are a criminal,” she tweeted.
Dean, charging cover-up, urged beat reporters at the state capital to ask Cuomo if “he can provide the treasure trove of documents he was preparing” for the Justice Department, “because a senior official there says he did not give them anything.”
U.S. Rep. Lee Zeldin, R-N.Y., said Cuomo’s “big regret of his nursing home cover-up is that he got caught.”
“So many lies in this presser like claiming his placement of over 9,000 infected patients with healthy nursing home residents did NOT result in spreading coronavirus to nursing homes,” the New York Republican wrote on Twitter. “Patently false.”
After the release of the state attorney general’s damning report last month, Cuomo was widely accused of reacting callously.
“Who cares [if they] died in the hospital, died in a nursing home? They died,” he said Jan. 29.
See the Monday press conference:
‘COVID preys on senior citizens’
On Monday, Cuomo maintained that the New York Department of Health has “always fully and publicly reported all COVID deaths in nursing homes and hospitals.”
“COVID preys on senior citizens, older people, weaker people. We’ve always known that. That is a fact,” he said.
“The numbers were the numbers, always.”
However, he acknowledged, additional information requested from the DOH, aside from place of death, was not provided in a timely fashion.
“There was a delay in providing the press and the public all that additional information,” he said. “There was a delay.”
Cuomo asserted the nursing-home directive was the result of his Department of Health following federal Centers for Disease Control guidance, as did at least 12 other states.
He insisted the patients were not “sent” to nursing homes.
“The nursing home had to agree that they could care for this person. That is a matter of law,” he said. “They cannot accept a patient where they are not prepared to care for properly.”
He said that of the 613 nursing homes in the state, 365 received a person from the hospital. Of those that received a coronavirus patient, 98% already had COVID in their facility, Cuomo said.
“That’s how COVID got into the nursing homes,” he said, asserting that after the March 25 order, the rate of death was the same.