Rep. Elise Stefanik (R-N.Y.) is demanding answers after a new report revealed New York state health officials underreported COVID-19-related nursing home deaths by as much as 50 percent in some places.
The New York House member characterized the revelations as "a massive corruption and coverup scandal at the highest level of New York State Government." She blamed the Governor, the Secretary to the Governor, the New York State Health Commissioner, and the Governor’s staff for the worrisome findings, which also revealed that some nursing homes did not comply with infection control protocols and had placed residents at increased risk of harm.
These cases were not reflected in the state's Department of Health's (DOH) published total nursing home death data. The attorney general office compared data from 62 nursing homes, which represents 10 percent of the total facilities in New York, reported to its office, to data reported to DOH.
The investigation also found that some nursing homes underreported their resident deaths occurring in nursing homes to DOH.
"The OAG found that nursing home resident deaths appear to be undercounted by DOH by approximately 50 percent," the attorney general's office release stated.
The COVID-related nursing home deaths have been a focal point for Cuomo's handling of the pandemic. He has repeatedly pushed back against assertions that his policy played any role in the deaths. The report is expected to trigger more scrutiny over Cuomo's policies and handling of nursing homes amid new cases of the virus across the state and country.
Many critics have pointed to Cuomo’s decision to order recovering nursing home patients to be returned to the facilities to free up hospital bed space for the increased number of nursing home deaths. Cuomo—who has touted his administration’s response to the pandemic—has often rejected the suggestions that his policy led to an increase in deaths.
The DOH had postponed Empire Center's August request for information under the Freedom of Information Law three times. This prompted a lawsuit, with the organization arguing the department had "no valid reason for withholding the requested data."
The department had told the organization that it could not immediately turn over the documents because “a diligent search for responsive documents is still being conducted.”
According to state data as of this week, approximately 70 percent of New York state’s roughly 35,000 deaths from the CCP virus were among people aged 70 or older.