Cuomo administration tracked nursing home deaths despite claims they couldn't be 'verified,' document shows
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EXCLUSIVE: New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s administration was tracking the location of nursing home residents who died of COVID-19 since at least April 2020, despite officials’ claims that those numbers could not be “verified” for a report issued months later.
The revelation comes in a new Department of Health document obtained exclusively by Fox News. According to the document, nursing homes were required to submit the number of residents who died from COVID-19 at least once daily.
“A new field has been added under the CURRENT Resident Death Details section of the form,” reads a portion of the form, beneath the words “UPDATE (04/19/20)”. “The new field will collect the resident’s Place of Death and is required for all resident deaths you are reporting in that section.”
New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo speaks during a news conference about the state budget on Wednesday in Albany, N.Y. (AP/Office of the NY Governor)
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The document raises new questions about the Cuomo administration’s decision to exclude key details from a July 2020 report about COVID-19 in nursing homes. According to the New York Times, senior officials including the governor’s top aide intervened to exclude thousands of nursing home deaths before the report was released, including out-of-facility deaths.
The report was not updated to include those deaths until February 2021, following a damning report from Attorney General Leticia James and a lawsuit from the Empire Center, a nonprofit think tank.
The New York State Department of Health, when asked for comment by Fox News, said it was working on a response. Cuomo’s office did not immediately respond to a request for comment at the time of publication.
Beth Garvey, acting counsel to Cuomo, told the New York Times last month that “the out-of-facility data was omitted after D.O.H. could not confirm it had been adequately verified.”
This mirrors language from the state’s health commissioner, Dr. Howard Zucker, who testified to lawmakers in August that there was “a lot of confusion” and “this was an evolving process.”
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But as the document obtained by Fox News reveals, state health officials had begun requesting the out-of-facility data for at least 78 days before they released the original report.
Bill Hammond, a senior fellow for health policy at the Empire Center, told Fox News that “this is further confirmation the Cuomo administration waged a months-long coverup of the full death toll in New York nursing homes.”
“Beginning in mid-April, the Health Department was specifically tracking how many residents died in the nursing homes as well as how many died in hospitals — yet they arbitrarily kept the second number secret in defiance of the public’s right to know,” he added. “It should not have been necessary for the Empire Center to file a lawsuit to obtain this basic information about the impact of an unfolding public health crisis.”
The center’s September lawsuit demonstrated that the state had been collecting death location information from nursing homes, though it was not clear when data collection first began. It would take another six months for the Cuomo administration to respond to the center’s original request for data.
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Officials are yet to provide a full explanation of the verification issues that they claim they faced.
As of early March 2021, there were 15,430 reported coronavirus deaths from long-term care facilities in New York state, including 5,866 that occurred outside of those properties, according to the nonprofit Long Term Care Community Coalition.
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