Gov. Andrew Cuomo of New York is adamantly opposed to an independent investigation into his administration's coronavirus response, insisting it's all part of an "ugly politics" drummed up by his conservative media critics.
But the public has a right to know whether his decision to force nursing homes to accept patients who had tested positive for COVID-19 caused unnecessary death and spread of the virus.
Cuomo says that his administration's investigation of itself proves he did everything right and that it was nursing home workers who spread the coronavirus.
New York's nursing-home death toll is shrouded in mystery — and might be significantly undercounted. This is exactly what independent investigations are for.
This is an opinion column. The thoughts expressed are those of the author.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo of New York has repeatedly insisted that calls for an independent investigation into his administration's coronavirus response are politically motivated and part of an "ugly politics" drummed up by his conservative media critics.
That's not remotely true, as Cuomo's critics include members of his own party and plenty of nonconservative media outlets.
But even if it were true that his political opponents had been the ones primarily raising the issue, who cares?
Cuomo's critics aren't making up the fact that by the state's own count, more than 6,600 patients have died in nursing homes as a result of COVID-19. They're also not making up the fact that Cuomo ordered nursing homes to accept patients who had tested positive for the virus at the start of the pandemic.
Removed from any partisan lens, those are concurrent facts worth investigating. Governors don't get a pass on accountability just because their critics are the people who asked for it.
Cuomo says his administration's investigation into itself is all the information the public needs
Cuomo has an interest in having as little reflection as possible on his fateful decision to force nursing homes to take COVID-19 patients. If an investigation were to determine that his actions led to an unnecessarily calamitous spike in deaths, it wouldn't be great for his "hero" narrative.
The governor still insists that the investigation performed by his own administration's Department of Health should be the final word on the nursing-home deaths. That report said such deaths were not a "significant factor" in New York's toll of more than 23,000 COVID-19 fatalities.
Though nursing-home workers have had little support from state or federal governments in securing the necessary personal protective equipment, the Cuomo administration's report put the blame on workers and visitors for unwittingly spreading the coronavirus.
The Associated Press reported this week that the state's staggering nursing-home death toll might actually be a substantial undercount.
The state of New York says nursing-home deaths amounted to roughly 20% of its overall COVID-19 death toll. That's low when compared with the percentages in neighboring states like Pennsylvania (68%), Massachusetts (64%), and even New Jersey (44%). It's also less than half of the national average of the 43 states that have reported their nursing-home death tolls during the pandemic, which is about 44%.
Using data from the Kaiser Family Foundation, the AP estimated that if New York's nursing-home death toll percentage were at the national average, the death toll would be 11,000.
The disparity in the percentages alone is reason enough for an independent investigation.
To be sure, under Cuomo's leadership, New York went from being the epicenter of the virus to having one of the lowest daily infection rates in the country. His subsequent victory tour seems to indicate that Cuomo thinks he did everything right in his pandemic response.
If he really believes that, why such resistance to an independent investigation?
It's not just the New York Post and other Rupert Murdoch-owned outlets agitating for an investigation. Several New York Democrats want a full accounting of what happened, including Assemblyman Ron Kim, who represents the parts of Queens that were the most devastated by the virus.
"We should have a federal investigation to find out what happened in the nursing homes," Kim told the Post. "Something terribly horrible happened here. That's probably the deadliest decision ever made in New York state history."
Cuomo is deflecting legitimate questions as 'ugly politics'
Cuomo has blamed the media at many points during the pandemic, even slamming The New York Times, which he says did not write enough editorials about the coming danger of the coronavirus. But he's saved particular ire for right-of-center outlets for pushing what he called a "political conspiracy" theory that maybe, just maybe, Cuomo made the wrong decision.
But the AP is not a right-wing outlet, and the questions posed about the "secrecy" surrounding New York's nursing-home data are valid.
Cuomo has no defense for his administration's opacity other than to claim his critics in the media are cynically playing politics. Ironically, that defense is nothing but political posturing.
A self-produced investigation that science and health experts have criticized for flawed, cherry-picked, and incomplete data isn't going to cut it.
If he's certain his administration made no mistakes in ordering nursing homes to accept coronavirus patients, Cuomo should stop hiding and let the truth speak for itself in the form of an independent investigation.
Read the original article on Business Insider