Aides to New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo altered a public report on COVID-19 nursing home deaths so that the fatality numbers excluded a huge number of those who died in hospitals, The Wall Street Journal reports. Sources cited by the Journal said Cuomo’s advisers convinced health officials to limit the death toll to those who had died of the virus in long-term nursing home facilities, excluding all of those who fell sick in such facilities but later passed away in hospitals. The July report consequently showed that only 6,432 nursing home patients died, a figure that represented a massive undercount. The actual death toll is more than 15,000.
Melissa DeRosa, Cuomo’s top aide, had previously admitted to lawmakers that the state withheld COVID-19 nursing home death numbers so that the tally could not “be used against us.” The governor has been under mounting scrutiny over the state’s nursing home deaths in light of his July 2020 decision to direct nursing homes to accept coronavirus-positive patients after their discharge from hospital. Federal prosecutors in Brooklyn are said to have shown an interest in the July report. Beth Garvey, a special counsel and senior adviser to Cuomo, told the Journal that “the out-of-facility data was omitted [from the report] after DOH could not confirm it had been adequately verified.”