Top advisors to New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo convinced state health officials to alter the true number of nursing home COVID-19 deaths from a report in July, according to reports from the New York Times and The Wall Street Journal.
The July report, which claimed the Cuomo administration’s March 25 order that required nursing homes to accept COVID-positive patients was not the driver of nursing home deaths, had initially said nearly 10,000 residents had died of the virus at that point, according to The Journal.
The report used the fraudulent number to falsely claim New York ranked 46 among all states and the District of Columbia at the time in the share of nursing home resident deaths in comparison with the general population.
Top Cuomo aide Melissa DeRosa, New York Department of Financial Services superintendent Linda Lacewell and former Cuomo advisor Jim Malatras were the individuals responsible for pressuring the NYSDOH to alter the report, according to The Times, which noted that none had expertise in public health.
The consulting firm McKinsey was hired to help the NYSDOH develop the July report, according to The Times. As they were working on the report, the firm developed a chart showing that 9,250 residents of New York nursing homes had died of the virus, some 3,100 more deaths than New Jersey, the state with the second-most deaths at the time.
Sitting beside DeRosa during a press conference on July 6, the day the report was released, Cuomo leveraged the report to combat criticism that his administration’s March 25 order led to more nursing home deaths in his state.
“They were playing politics. I get politics. I get the political environment and I get the ugliness of politics better than most. And you had this political conspiracy theory that the deaths in nursing homes were preventable,” Cuomo said.
“It has no basis in fact,” Cuomo said. “It was pure politics and it was ugly politics. And now the report has the facts. And the facts tell the exact opposite story.”
It’s unclear to what extent, if any, Cuomo had in directing his aides to pressure the health department to alter the nursing home death figures in the July report.
Cuomo is a notorious micromanager. One former Cuomo staffer recently told the Gothamist that the governor is “a micromanager to the 100th degree … one of the worst I’ve ever seen.”
Cuomo’s office did not immediately return a request for comment.
The altering of the July report is not the first known instance of the Cuomo administration concealing deaths from residents of long-term care facilities.
The Daily Caller News Foundation reported on May 15 that the Cuomo administration stopped reporting the deaths of all nursing home residents around late April. Beginning in early May, New York only reported nursing home residents who died from the virus while physically at their facility, while omitting those that died at a hospital.
The reporting change resulted in an immediate reduction of nearly 500 deaths, the DCNF reported at the time.
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