‘The Public Was Misled’: Audit Finds New York Undercounted Nursing Home Deaths, Cuomo Tried To Cover Up

(Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images)

Brianna Lyman News and Commentary Writer
Font Size:

The New York State Department of Health undercounted the number of COVID-19 related nursing home deaths by more than 4,000 while Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo was in office, according to an audit released Tuesday.

State Comptroller Thomas P. DiNapoli released the audit, which showed nursing home deaths were undercounted between April of 2020 and February of 2021 by 4,071. A total of 13,147 deaths occurred during that time but just 9,076 were reported.

The audit states the health department “was not transparent in its reporting of COVID-19 deaths at nursing homes.”

“Whether due to the poor-quality data that it was collecting initially or, later, a deliberate decision, for certain periods during the pandemic, the Department understated the number of deaths at nursing homes by as much as 50%,” the audit states. (RELATED: NY AG Calls Cuomo A ‘Sick, Pathetic Man’ After He Hints At Political Comeback)

The audit also noted how the health department changed its reporting standards frequently, such as reporting nursing home deaths that only occurred while at the nursing home versus reporting the death if it occurred at a hospital, “with virtually no explanation publicly as to why it changed.”

DiNapoli said “the public was misled by those at the highest level of state government through distortion and suppression of the facts when New Yorkers deserved the truth.”

“The pandemic is not over, and I am hopeful the current administration will make changes to improve accountability and protect lives. An important step would be for the DOH to provide the families who lost loved ones with answers as to the actual number of nursing homes residents who died. These families are still grieving, and they deserve no less.”

The audit cited the November 2021 Assembly Impeachment Investigation Report, noting “these reports paint a picture of an Executive that was micromanaging with top-down decision making on every matter, regardless of size, and tight control over information.”

“There were concerns by Department officials that the Task Force was largely compromised of non-medical experts, whose decisions were not always made based on scientific or medical advice – but whom Department health experts nevertheless often had to defer to.”

The Daily Caller News Foundation (DCNF) was the first to report that the state was knowingly undercounting nursing home deaths. By May of 2020, reports regarding nursing home and adult care facilities in New York were omitting long-term care residents who died from coronavirus in hospitals. Cuomo had faced criticism for ordering nursing homes and other long-term care facilities to accept COVID-19 positive patients from hospitals. Cuomo later rescinded the order, which experts said led to higher levels of death among nursing home residents.

Cuomo later personally edited a July 2020 Department of Health report that undercounted COVID-19 nursing home deaths by thousands, according to a New York State Assembly report. Cuomo ordered the health department to produce a report to combat the criticism he had faced over his nursing home directive, the State Assembly Judiciary Committee said in a report. Officials knew as they drafted the report that roughly 10,000 nursing home residents had died from the virus, but the final report only included those who physically were present at the nursing home or long-term care facilities.