White House says DOJ will decide whether to probe New York nursing home deaths

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ALBANY, N.Y. — Any federal investigation into New York’s COVID-19 nursing home deaths will be led by the Department of Justice, the White House said Friday.

White House press secretary Jen Psaki declined to weigh in Friday on a scathing report from New York Attorney General Letitia James accused the Cuomo administration of underreporting deaths at elder care facilities during the pandemic.

“I have seen those reports. I would say any investigation, I would point you to the Department of Justice,” Psaki said.

James’ report, which also found many long-term care sites failed to adequately protect residents from coronavirus, prompted state Health Commissioner Howard Zucker to release long-sought data detailing how many seniors died in nursing homes and after being transferred to hospitals.

State officials had previously kept the figures separate, leading to criticisms that Gov. Andrew Cuomo and his office was keeping the number of nursing home deaths artificially low.

Hours after the AG’s report, Zucker said in a statement that an ongoing audit shows the true total number of deaths connected to nursing homes is 12,743, not the 8,700 the state had been reporting on its website.

The change in reporting does not impact the state’s overall death toll, which stood at 34,742 as of Wednesday.

The comment from the White House comes months after the Department of Justice requested information from New York and other Democratic-led states about nursing home deaths.

Under the Trump administration, the feds claimed the probe was part of the first step in determining whether to open a formal investigation under the Civil Rights of Institutionalized Persons Act. At the time, Cuomo called the probe “political.”

Psaki indicated that the Biden administration would have no hand in any investigations.

“Again, any investigation would be led by the Department of Justice,” she said. “We are in a new age where they are independent and they will determine what paths they make moving forward."

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