New York Gov. Kathy Hochul’s new administration on Aug. 24 added almost 12,000 additional deaths due to COVID-19 than previously had been counted publicly by the state.
The state is now reporting 55,395 COVID-19 deaths, up from 43,415.
“We’re now releasing more data than had been released before publicly so people know, the nursing home deaths and the hospital deaths are consistent what’s being displayed by the CDC,” Hochul said on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” on Aug. 25, referring to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
There were “a lot of things that weren’t happening” during the Cuomo administration, she said.
Hochul’s office is making a distinction between the two sets of numbers. The lower number is the total deaths as reported by hospitals, nursing homes, and adult care facilities. The higher number is compiled through provisional death certificate data reported by New York state and New York City to the CDC.
Hochul replaced Andrew Cuomo, a fellow Democrat, on Aug. 23. He resigned after a report commissioned by the state attorney general found that he had sexually harassed 11 women, an accusation that he continues to deny.
In her first speech, Hochul, who served as lieutenant governor before succeeding Cuomo, promised to bring tougher COVID-19 rules and more transparency to the state. She released the updated data after a nonprofit watchdog called for New York to be transparent about the nursing home deaths.
The new numbers include “presumed and confirmed deaths,” Hochul said during an Aug. 25 appearance on NPR’s “Morning Edition.”
“We’re using CDC numbers, which will be consistent, and so there’s no opportunity for us to mask those numbers, nor do I want to mask those numbers,” she said. “The public deserves a clear, honest picture of what’s happening—that’s whether it’s good or bad. They need to know the truth. And that’s how we restore confidence when they know that I will always be truthful and very transparent in my approach to government and not just with respect to nursing homes; every aspect of, of government.”
New York state already had one of the highest death rates in the country per 100,000 residents during the pandemic prior to the recent additions.
New York State Department of Health officials didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.
One expert said it’s a good to see the state numbers aligning with federal ones, but that more should be shared.
“It’s a step in the right direction but it’s only the first step. What we still don’t have and what only the state can provide is the breakdown of when those deaths happened and where those deaths happened,” Bill Hammond, senior fellow for health policy at the Empire Center for Public Policy, a nonprofit think tank based in Albany, told The Epoch Times’ sister media NTD.
Lawmakers reacted after the update.
“Absolutely devastating, and appalling that, in addition to the concealing of nursing home deaths that we already knew about, former Gov. Cuomo and his administration vastly misrepresented the total number of people who died from COVID-19 in New York,” New York Sen. Julia Salazar, a Democrat, wrote on Twitter on Aug. 25.
“Criminal fraud,” Assemblyman Ron Kim, another Democrat, said.
Cuomo’s administration struggled with transparency, especially in regard to COVID-19 deaths.
The administration issued a controversial order in March 2020 that forced nursing homes to accept COVID-19-positive elderly persons, which critics say led to a jump in COVID-19 deaths in the state.
New York state officials acknowledged in January that the nursing home resident death toll during the pandemic was an undercount, noting more than 4,000 such deaths. The disclosure came after New York Attorney General Letitia James, a Democrat, said Cuomo’s administration underreported COVID-19 nursing home fatalities by as much as 50 percent.
James said she couldn’t determine whether the March 2020 policy led to more deaths.
Officials also said they left data out of a nursing home resident death report. An audio recording shows that a top aide to Cuomo told legislators that the administration withheld nursing home residents’ deaths because they could be “used against us,” appearing to refer to a U.S. Department of Justice inquiry that ended in July with no official investigation.
Cuomo has maintained nothing untoward happened regarding the matter and, in his farewell speech, claimed that New York state’s infection rate plunged after starting sky high, because “when the rest of the nation put their head in the sand and denied science and played politics, we faced up to the facts, and we made the tough but necessary decisions.”