New York governor Andrew Cuomo said the issue of coronavirus deaths in state nursing homes had become a “political football,” in his first public comments after Attorney General Letitia James found that his administration had drastically undercounted nursing-home deaths.
The state health department in April 2020 altered the way it reported coronavirus deaths among nursing home residents. Residents who died of COVID-19 in the facilities themselves were listed as nursing home deaths, while residents who died after being transported to a hospital were not included in that tally.
The change in reporting artificially lowered the true death toll. Health Commissioner Howard Zucker admitted on Thursday night that 3,829 nursing home residents have died of COVID-19 in a hospital since the start of the pandemic, bringing the total nursing home death toll from 8,914 to 12,743, a jump of 43 percent.
“Look, whether a person died in a hospital or died in a nursing home, people died.” Cuomo told reporters on Friday. My father “was in a hospital, got transferred to a nursing home. My father died. My father was in a nursing home, got transferred to a hospital. My father died. People died.”
Cuomo added, “If you look at New York State, we have a lower percentage of deaths in nursing homes than other states. A third of all deaths in this nation are from nursing homes. New York State, we’re…about 28 percent, but we’re below the national average in number of deaths in nursing homes. But who cares — 33, 28, died in a hospital, died in a nursing home — they died.” (The percentage of nursing home deaths appears to be 30 percent, not 28 percent as Cuomo asserted.)
The governor also accused former Trump adviser Michael Caputo for bringing national attention to coronavirus in New York’s nursing homes and using it as a “political football.”
“To play politics with it the way they did: that was mean,” Cuomo said referring to the Trump administration. “Because if you lost someone in a nursing home, then it put a thought in your head, ‘Well maybe it didn’t have to be. Maybe my father died unnecessarily.’ And that was just cruel to do, because it wasn’t true.”