The Cuomo government’s alleged misreport of nursing home deaths in New York is grave and potentially merits federal criminal charges.
On March 25, 2020, Governor Andrew Cuomo issued an executive order requiring nursing homes in New York to admit hospital patients who had tested positive for Covid-19. The order also prohibited nursing homes from requiring hospital residents who were deemed “medically stable” to be tested prior to admission or readmission. By the end of the summer, New York had more than 32,000 Covid deaths, the highest in the nation and more than twice as many as any other state. If New York were its own country, it would have been in the top 10 Covid deaths. The death toll is the second highest in the country – more than three times the national average.
What caught the Justice Department’s attention was Governor Cuomo’s claim that New York nursing home deaths were lower than many other states, and that his March 25 order did not contribute to the extremely high number of New Yorkers involved in Covid died. This seemed unlikely, given the disproportionate impact of the virus on the elderly, sick and frail. On August 26, the Civil Rights Department of the Judiciary, which relied on its jurisdiction to investigate government-run facilities under the Federal Civil Rights Act, asked the Cuomo administration for data on New York’s publicly owned nursing homes which accounts for less than 5% of nursing homes in the state.
In September, New York released data showing Covid deaths in government-run nursing homes were underreported by a third. The count seemed to be due to several factors. First, when a resident of a nursing home who signed Covid died after being rushed to hospital for treatment, New York didn’t count it as a “nursing home death.” Second, no deaths were counted in New York before the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services requested coverage of Covid from nursing homes in mid-May. CMS made reporting of previous deaths from Covid optional, and New York apparently chose to keep the information to itself.
But New York officials knew the data they reported to CMS didn’t go back until mid-May. The Cuomo government misled the public when it relied on this data to claim in late September that the total number of deaths in nursing homes in the state was low.