By Joe Palazzolo, Jimmy Vielkind, Rebecca Davis O’Brien
New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s top advisers successfully pushed state health officials to strip a public report of data showing that more nursing-home residents had died of COVID-19 than the administration had acknowledged, according to people with knowledge of the report’s production.
The July report, which examined the factors that led to the spread of the virus in nursing homes, focused only on residents who died inside long-term-care facilities, leaving out those who had died in hospitals after becoming sick in nursing homes. As a result, the report said 6,432 nursing-home residents had died—a significant undercount of the death toll attributed to the state’s most vulnerable population, the people said.
The changes Cuomo’s aides and health officials made to the nursing-home report, which haven’t been previously disclosed, reveal that the state possessed a fuller accounting of out-of-facility nursing-home deaths as early as the summer of 2020. The Health Department resisted calls by state and federal lawmakers, media outlets and others to release the data for another eight months.
State officials now say more than 15,000 residents of nursing homes and other long-term-care facilities were confirmed or presumed to have died from COVID-19 since March of last year—counting both those who died in long-term-care facilities and those who died later in hospitals. That figure is about 50% higher than earlier official death tolls.
Cuomo now faces mounting political pressure over both his administration’s handling of the pandemic in nursing homes and accusations that he sexually harassed two former staffers. Republicans and some Democrats have called for the governor to resign from office or be impeached.
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