The FBI is investigating whether Cuomo and his advisors undercounted COVID-related nursing home deaths

andrew cuomo
Gov. Andrew Cuomo of New York at a news conference September 8, 2020, in New York City.

  • The FBI is investigating whether Cuomo and his aides provided false data on nursing home deaths.
  • People familiar with the probe told the NYT that the agency has subpoenaed Cuomo for documents.
  • The FBI has been examining Cuomo’s handling of nursing homes during the coronavirus pandemic.
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The Federal Bureau of Investigation is trying to find out if New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo and his advisors provided false numbers on the state’s nursing home deaths during the coronavirus pandemic to the Department of Justice last summer, according to a New York Times report on Friday.

Four people with knowledge of the probe told The Times that federal investigators have subpoenaed Cuomo’s office for documents regarding the data, reached out to lawyers for Cuomo’s aides, and spoken to officials from the state’s Health Department on the matter.

The investigation is part of the FBI’s broader examination of Cuomo’s handling of nursing homes as New York became a COVID-19 hotspot last spring. Cuomo has come under immense scrutiny in recent weeks amid reports that his aides pressured state health officials to undercount the nursing home death toll in a July report.

The DOJ in August requested that a handful of governors, including Cuomo, provide the agency with data on COVID-19 cases and deaths in nursing homes to see if an investigation is warranted. The demand came in response to Cuomo’s controversial March 25 order, which required nursing homes to admit patients with COVID-19 or patients who were suspected to have tested positive for the virus.

“Protecting the rights of some of society’s most vulnerable members, including elderly nursing home residents, is one of our country’s most important obligations,” then-Assistant Attorney General for DOJ’s Civil Rights Division Eric Dreiband said at the time. “We must ensure they are adequately cared for with dignity and respect and not unnecessarily put at risk.”

An outside lawyer representing Cuomo’s office in the federal investigation, Elkan Abramowitz, pushed back on the allegations. In a statement to The Times, he said that “the submission in response to DOJ’s August request was truthful and accurate and any suggestion otherwise is demonstrably false.”

Submitting false information to the DOJ could be a criminal offense, The Times reported.

Cuomo, once celebrated in the early days of the coronavirus outbreak, has faced criticism from both Democrats and Republicans for his COVID-19 policies concerning nursing homes. The new details on the FBI investigation also comes as Cuomo faces pressure to step down as governor after several women have accused him of sexual harassment. Cuomo has refused to resign.

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Cuomo’s advisers covered up high nursing home death tolls by pushing NY health officials to alter reports

andrew cuomo
New York state Gov. Andrew Cuomo speaks at a news conference on September 08, 2020 in New York City.

  • Advisers to Cuomo tried to conceal COVID-19 nursing home deaths as early as last year, reports say.
  • They successfully pressured state health officials to undercount deaths in a July report.
  • Cuomo has been criticized recently for his pandemic response and allegations of sexual assault.
  • Visit the Business section of Insider for more stories.

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s advisers pressed state health officials to change a report last summer to hide the true count of COVID-19-related deaths at nursing homes, the Wall Street Journal first reported.

The report, compiled by the New York State Health Department, was released in July and looked at virus transmission in nursing homes. It was a response to criticism the state received over a March 25 directive that said people could not be denied access to nursing homes based on a positive COVID-19 diagnosis.

Sources told The Journal the report initially included data on COVID-19 deaths that occurred in nursing homes, as well as those that occurred at hospitals after a person became infected at a nursing home. However, Cuomo’s top advisers successfully pushed state officials to leave out the hospital deaths.

According to the New York Times, Cuomo’s most senior aides rewrote the report, resulting in a tense confrontation with health officials that led to top-level departures from the Health Department.

The result was a significant undercounting of nursing home deaths, known to officials as early as July of last year. The report counted a total of 6,432 nursing home deaths, The Journal reported. The number is now higher than 15,000.

Cuomo has previously said he withheld data because he feared a politically-motivated inquiry from President Donald Trump. But the recent revelations show Cuomo’s team was concealing nursing home deaths before the federal government requested data, The Times reported.

In a statement provided to Insider by Cuomo’s office, Department of Health Spokesman Gary Holmes said the July report was intended to show how coronavirus entered nursing homes at the height of the pandemic. He said the report showed transmission from nursing home staff was the primary driver, rather than Cuomo’s March 25 directive.

“While early versions of the report included out-of-facility deaths, the COVID task force was not satisfied that the data had been verified against hospital data and so the final report used only data for in-facility deaths,” the statement said, adding that the report was updated in February to include out-of-facility deaths.

The New York attorney general accused Cuomo in January of undercounting nursing home deaths by 50%.

In February, the New York Post reported a leaked call during which a top Cuomo aide said the team had withheld data on nursing home deaths. As a result, Democrats and Republicans called for Cuomo’s pandemic emergency powers to be stripped, with some calling for his resignation.

In addition to scrutiny over his coronavirus response, multiple women have come forward to accuse Cuomo of sexual harassment, again prompting some lawmakers to call on him to resign.

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The tide has turned against NY Gov. Andrew Cuomo as federal investigators scrutinize his handling of the COVID-19 crisis

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo
New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo.

  • In the early days of the pandemic, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo was hailed by many as a hero.
  • Now, the FBI and a US attorney’s office is investigating Cuomo over his handling of nursing homes.
  • New York Democrats are also working to strip Cuomo of the emergency powers he received last spring.
  • Visit the Business section of Insider for more stories.

After being hailed as a hero in the early days of the pandemic, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo is now facing an investigation by federal prosecutors and an attempt by his fellow Democrat state lawmakers to strip him of his emergency powers.

Cuomo has faced increasing scrutiny from lawmakers  after recent reports that his administration withheld data on COVID-19 deaths in nursing homes, as well as severely under counted nursing home deaths. The fallout is connected to an executive order issued by Cuomo in March 2020, when hospitals were directed to release coronavirus-positive patients back to their nursing homes.

Now, the Federal Bureau of Investigations and the US attorney’s office in the Eastern District of New York are investigating Cuomo’s handling of nursing homes during the pandemic, the Times Union reported. The US attorney’s office investigation is part of a probe into the top members of Cuomo’s coronavirus task force.

The Justice Department did not respond to Insider’s request for comment.

“As we publicly said, DOJ (Department of Justice) has been looking into this for months,” Richard Azzopardi, a spokesman for Cuomo, told the Times Union. “We have been cooperating with them and we will continue to.”

Lawmakers in New York from Cuomo’s own party are also pushing back against the governor. Top Democrats in the New York State Senate are trying to remove Cuomo’s emergency powers that he was granted in the early days of the pandemic, The New York Times reported.

The measure, which could come to a vote next week, emerged over a report that Cuomo lashed out at a local lawmaker for criticizing his pandemic response.

Assemblyman Ron Kim, who is one of the Democrats supporting the effort to strip Cuomo’s emergency powers, said Cuomo threatened to “destroy” him if he did not “cover up” for the governor, CNN reported. Cuomo’s adviser denied Kim’s accusation.

Cuomo has been dismissive of the criticism lobbied against him. In a conference call with reporters Wednesday, the governor accused former President Donald Trump, Fox News, and the New York Post of conspiring against him, Insider reported.

He also defended his actions on nursing homes, saying his decisions were based on federal guidance, a claim that Politifact has rated “mostly false.”

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The US is giving $523 million to 9,000 nursing homes for reducing COVID-19 cases. This is the first time it has given institutions financial rewards for controlling the spread.

nursing home
Two relatives visit their mother (r), in the Johannes Sondermann House of the AWO geriatric centre.

  • The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) will split $523 million in incentive payments among more than 9,000 nursing homes for reducing COVID-19 related infections and deaths.
  • The agency gave the first payments out on Wednesday, and said it is “exhausting all measures to ensure nursing homes nationwide are safe.”
  • Nursing homes have been particularly hard hit by the pandemic. Their residents and staff accounting for more than a third of the country’s COVID-19 fatalities.
  • Officials have recommended that healthcare workers and residents of long-term-care facilities are first in line to receive a COVID-19 vaccine. 
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

The government is giving financial rewards to nursing homes that slowed the spread of COVID-19 among their residents.

The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) will share incentive payments totalling $523 million among more than 9,000 nursing homes, with the first payments given out on Wednesday.

This marks the first time the US has given financial rewards to institutions for maintaining COVID-19 prevention measures, The Washington Post reported.

Around 69% (9,248) of nursing homes in the US that are eligible for HHS support will receive the funding.

“These nursing homes are being rewarded for successfully reducing COVID-19-related infections and deaths between September and October,” HHS said in a statement Monday.

Nursing homes can use the funding to purchase more personal protective equipment “or other efforts to help slow the spread of COVID-19,” HHS said. The virus “continues to take a devastating toll on nursing homes stretched thin,” the agency added.

More than 100,000 nursing home residents and staff have died from the virus in the US, accounting for more than a third of the country’s COVID-19 fatalities, according to Kaiser Family Foundation data.

Earlier this month, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices voted to recommend that healthcare workers and residents of long-term-care facilities receive a coronavirus vaccine first.

A panel of outside advisors to the FDA is meeting Thursday to vote on whether to recommend that the FDA issues an emergency authorization for the shot. If the FDA agrees with the recommendation and decides to proceed, people may start getting the shot as early as Friday. Though there may be delays to distribution.

Read more: Pharmacies, doctor’s offices, and hospitals are gearing up to give coronavirus vaccines to millions of Americans. Here’s how they’re preparing and how much they stand to profit along the way.

In August, HHS announced plans to distribute an additional $5 billion in Provider Relief Fund (PRF) payments to nursing homes, including $2 billion for an incentive-based program to rewards nursing homes that “create and maintain safe environments for their residents.”

In the first round of funding in October, the agency gave $331 million in emergency funds to nursing homes for keeping new COVID-19 infection and mortality rates among residents “lower than the communities they serve.” This second round of $523 million will be followed by three further rounds.

“Paired with continued funding directly tied to COVID-19 infection and mortality rate reductions, HHS is exhausting all measures to ensure nursing homes nationwide are safe,” the agency said.

This includes free interactive COVID-19 safety training and mentoring through the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, which only half of all US nursing homes have enrolled on, HHS said.

“As we approach the rollout of safe and effective vaccines for our most vulnerable, we continue the innovative program we created this year to incentivize and assist nursing homes in battling COVID-19 and applying the right infection control practices,” said HHS secretary, Alex Azar.

“This half a billion dollars in incentive payments will reward nursing homes that have shown results in their tireless work to keep their residents safe from the virus.”

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