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A damning watchdog report found that New York Governor Andrew Cuomo’s directive to nursing homes forcing them to accept coronavirus patients discharged from hospitals may have caused up to 1,000 more deaths among elderly residents.
The nonprofit Empire Center for Public Policy released its report Thursday. The report, which uses information from the state health department, found that the controversial order was “associated with” more than one in six of the 5,780 nursing home deaths that occurred in New York state statewide between the end of March and beginning of May.
Cuomo has yet to respond to the damaging information contained in the report.
The high number of nursing home deaths in New York since the beginning of the pandemic has dogged Cuomo for nearly a year, in particular his administration’s policy of requiring nursing homes to admit coronavirus-positive patients after they were discharged from the hospital. Additionally, the state had been tabulating the deaths of nursing home residents who died after being transported to the hospital as hospital deaths, making it difficult to ascertain the actual number of residents who died in nursing homes. A report issued by New York Attorney General Letitia James found that the state undercounted nursing home deaths by as much as 50 percent.
Last week, reports broke that a top aide to Cuomo admitted that the administration covered up the true data on nursing home deaths from the coronavirus across New York state in order to hide the magnitude of the issue from federal authorities.
Secretary to the Governor Melissa DeRosa apologized to state Democratic lawmakers during a recent video conference call, saying “we froze” out of fear that the real nursing home death numbers would “be used against us” by federal prosecutors, the New York Post reported.
In September, the state Senate sought to obtain more accurate numbers from the state health department about the number of nursing home patients who died from the virus. Around the same time, former President Trump turned New York’s nursing home deaths into “a giant political football” and urged the Justice Department to investigate the administration, and “basically, we froze,” DeRosa said.
“So we do apologize,” DeRosa told the New York Democratic lawmakers during the call. “I do understand the position that you were put in. I know that it is not fair. It was not our intention to put you in that political position with the Republicans.”
The revelation of a coverup prompted bipartisan outrage from New York lawmakers, some of whom called for a thorough investigation into the Cuomo administration’s handling of the nursing home crisis and for the governor’s emergency powers, granted to him in March when the pandemic began, to be rescinded.
Some Democrats have called for Cuomo to be criminally prosecuted and even impeached.
New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio, who often spars with Cuomo on local issues, said he agrees “100 percent” with stripping Cuomo of emergency powers.
Meanwhile, New York legislators who have dared to criticize Cuomo have shared stories about the governor’s angry outbursts toward them.
New York state Assembly member Ron Kim, a fellow Democrat who has been vocal in his criticism of the governor recently, described a threatening phone call he received from an angry Governor Cuomo last week during which Cuomo informed him that, “we’re in this business together and we don’t cross certain lines and he said I hadn’t seen his wrath and that he can destroy me.”