New York’s COVID-19 nursing death toll has soared after the administration of Gov. Andrew Cuomo released additional data after the state Supreme Court ordered its release following a Freedom of Information Law (FOIL) request.
The new disclosure, released on Feb. 10, was prompted by a FOIL application by the Empire Center, a think tank.
The data shows that there were 6,344 confirmed and 2,981 presumed in-facility COVID-19 deaths and another 4,775 confirmed out-of-facility deaths.
The COVID-19 death toll associated with New York long-term care facilities is higher, the Empire Center said, as the data does not include some 600 presumed out-of-facility COVID-19 deaths.
Secretary to the Governor Melissa DeRosa said on the call that the Cuomo administration had rejected a legislative request for the tally in August because the issue had been turned into “a giant political football” and the administration feared the figures would “be used against us” by federal prosecutors, The Post reported.
Cuomo’s office did not immediately respond to a request for comment on DeRosa’s reported remarks.
New York GOP Chairman Nick Langworthy criticized the Cuomo administration’s reported admission of a cover-up.
“The second most powerful person in state government and top aide to Governor Cuomo admitted on video to the premeditated and willful violation of state laws and what clearly amounts to federal obstruction of justice,“ Langworthy said in a statement. ”Andrew Cuomo has abused his power and destroyed the trust placed in the office of governor. Prosecution and impeachment discussions must begin right away.”
The revelation raises new questions as to whether a March 25 directive from Cuomo’s administration helped spread sickness and death among residents, a charge the state disputes.
“The lack of transparency and the meting out of bits of important data has undermined our ability to both recognize the scope and severity of what’s going on” and address it, said Richard Mollot, the executive director of the Long Term Care Community Coalition, a residents advocacy group, in remarks to The Associated Press.
“No resident shall be denied readmission or admission to a nursing home solely based on a confirmed or suspected diagnosis of COVID-19,” the order said.
Under the order, if hospital staff determined residents were medically stable, nursing homes were prohibited from requiring that the patient be tested for COVID-19 prior to admission or readmission. Experts warned at the time that the order would lead to a surge in COVID-19 deaths in nursing homes.
Cuomo’s new order, issued in May, required hospitals to keep elderly COVID-19 patients until a negative test was confirmed or move them to another state-run facility that wasn’t a nursing home.
Cuomo has repeatedly rejected links between the since-repealed policy and the thousands of nursing home deaths in the state. Last year, the Cuomo administration flatly denied the allegations.
“Admission policies to nursing homes were not a significant factor in nursing home fatalities. And data suggests that nursing home quality is not a factor in mortality from COVID.”
New York Health Commissioner Dr. Howard Zucker said at a press conference following the release of a report that admission policies were not a significant factor in virus-related nursing home deaths, and called attempts to blame the fatalities on the March 25 executive order a “false narrative.”
However, questions have been raised about the reliability and impartiality of the study, and a number of lawmakers have called for a probe.
“Did the policy increase fatalities in the state?” Grabowski said of the executive order. “It probably did. I just don’t think it was the primary driver.”