NYT: Gov. Cuomo's Cover Up of Nursing Home Deaths 'Far Greater Than Previously Known'

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Posted: Apr 28, 2021 4:15 PM
NYT: Gov. Cuomo's Cover Up of Nursing Home Deaths 'Far Greater Than Previously Known'

Source: AP Photo/Mark Lennihan, Pool

On Wednesday afternoon, J. David Goodman, Jesse McKinley, and Danny Hakim of The New York Times broke the news that Gov. Andrew Cuomo's cover-up of nursing home deaths "was far greater than previously known." The report noted:

The effort by Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo’s office to obscure the pandemic death toll in New York nursing homes was far greater than previously known, with aides repeatedly overruling state health officials over a span of at least five months, according to interviews and newly unearthed documents.

Mr. Cuomo’s most senior aides engaged in a sustained effort to prevent the state’s own health officials, including the commissioner, Howard Zucker, from releasing the true death toll to the public or sharing it with state lawmakers, these interviews and documents showed.

A scientific paper, which incorporated the data, was never published. An audit of the numbers by a top Cuomo aide was finished months before it became publicly known. Two letters, drafted by the Health Department and meant for state legislators, were never sent.

...

The full data on nursing home deaths was not released until this year, after a report by the state attorney general in late January found that the official tally might have undercounted the true toll by as much as 50 percent. 

That was something Mr. Cuomo’s aides had known since the previous spring, The New York Times found.

The nearly 2,000-word report is rather damning. The word "never" is used seven times, in reference to drafts of more accurate and "nuanced" numbers of the data. 

Conveniently, this all happened around the time Gov. Cuomo's best-selling memoir on leadership during the pandemic was released, though Elkan Abramowitz, an attorney for the governor's office, denied the connection.

What can be gleaned from the report is that someone was always looking to delay the data, as Abramowitz claimed, for the sake of accuracy:

Elkan Abramowitz, a lawyer representing Mr. Cuomo’s office, said the administration was reluctant to release numbers it did not believe were reliable.

“The whole brouhaha here is overblown to the point where there are cynical suggestions offered for the plain and simple truth that the chamber wanted only to release accurate information that they believed was totally unassailable,” Mr. Abramowitz said.

“The chamber was never satisfied that the numbers that they were getting from D.O.H. were accurate,” he said, adding that the actions by Mr. Cuomo’s aides had nothing to do with the governor’s book.

If we give the governor the benefit of the doubt, though, and go with this answer, then at the very least that's gross incompetence that Cuomo's office could not get it together enough to release accurate data in a timely manner. A oft-repeated claim aides used in issues with the figures was the concern of "double counting."

The governor's office was asked "repeatedly" for more accurate numbers, but again, those were never sent out. 

As the report mentions, Gov. Cuomo is facing extensive scrutiny and even investigations to do with his book deal, his friends and family members receiving priority access to COVID testing reserved for those with symptoms, and allegations of sexual misconduct, in addition to the nursing home scandal. As I just reported on Sunday, the governor's office has repeatedly denied requests from the media when it comes to getting accurate numbers.

"The number of nursing home residents who died in the pandemic has been a particularly sensitive question for the Cuomo administration," the report reads. You could say that again.

Included is a Siena College poll from March 15, 2021. In March of this year, only 27 percent said the governor was doing an excellent/good job at "making public all data about COVID-related deaths of nursing home deaths," down from 39 percent in February this year.