New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo made his first public comments to reporters after the state’s Democratic attorney general faulted his administration for undercounting nursing home deaths amid the pandemic.
Cuomo, a Democrat, said the criticisms against him were a “political attack” against him that started under former President Donald Trump’s administration.
“Where this starts is frankly a political attack from the prior federal administration,” the governor stated on Friday.
“Whether a person died in the hospital or died in a nursing home, it’s … people died. People died,” Cuomo then went on to say.
“The same people are dying today. Ninety-six percent of the people who died are older people with comorbidities, which happens to be the population that lives in nursing homes,” he added. “It’s continuing today, even with all the testing we’re doing. If you look at New York state, we have a lower percentage of deaths in nursing homes than other states. One-third of all deaths in this nation are in nursing homes.”
The governor was responding to a report from New York Attorney General Letitia James’ office, where she found that nursing home deaths from the CCP virus were undercounted by as much as 50 percent.
Cuomo’s administration has come under fire for his policy during the early months of the viral pandemic where he directed nursing homes in New York to accept patients who were suspected of having the CCP virus, a novel coronavirus that causes COVID-19. The policy was rescinded in May 2020.
“Everybody did the best they could,” Cuomo said. “If you think there was a mistake, then go talk to the federal government,” he said. “It’s not about pointing fingers or blame, this became a political football.”
“The commissioner said no not-for-profit nursing home was forced to take anyone,” he continued. “If they took someone they could not care for, a COVID positive person, they violated the law.”
The 76-page report (pdf) released follows an investigation by James’s office into claims of neglect of patients and other conduct that allegedly led to the deaths of nursing home residents and employees.
“As the pandemic and our investigations continue, it is imperative that we understand why the residents of nursing homes in New York unnecessarily suffered at such an alarming rate,” James said in a statement. “While we cannot bring back the individuals we lost to this crisis, this report seeks to offer transparency that the public deserves and to spur increased action to protect our most vulnerable residents.”
Separately, former federal assistant secretary in Trump’s Human Services Department, Michael Caputo, issued a statement after Cuomo’s remarks about the previous administration’s policy to reporters.
“Early on, experts at the Health and Human Services administration identified Cuomo’s foolish executive order as a primary cause for thousands of nursing home COVID deaths in New York,” Caputo said in a statement. ” He’s right, I called him out on it immediately… Cuomo is personally responsible for thousands of unnecessary nursing home deaths and he must be held accountable.”