- 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.
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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.