Critics of New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo renewed their calls for his resignation or impeachment on Wednesday following a New York Times report detailing efforts by his office to hide the number of nursing home deaths from Covid-19 last year.
The Times’ reporting provides new details about Cuomo’s top aides’ involvement, over a period of at least five months last year, to stop state health officials from releasing accurate data about the number of New York nursing home residents who died of the disease.
State lawmakers and others began suspecting last spring, two months into the pandemic, that the Cuomo administration’s official tally of 6,000 nursing home resident deaths did not include those who died after being transferred to hospitals to treat the coronavirus infections they developed in nursing homes.
A report by state Attorney General Letitia James in January found that Cuomo’s tally may have undercounted the deaths by as much as 50%—but it wasn’t until Wednesday that it became publicly known that Cuomo’s top aides knew about the discrepancy for nearly a year.
The state Health Department began preparing a report on nursing home deaths in the spring of 2020, with the governor’s top advisors supervising the effort. When the report was made publicly available last July, it emphasized that nursing home admissions from hospitals “were not a driver of nursing home infections or fatalities” and included the death count of 6,000.
But another unpublished draft which was reviewed by the Times stated that 9,739 nursing home residents had died of Covid-19 through the end of May 2020—”approximately 35%” of all deaths in the state, rather than 21%, as the published draft stated.
In the following months, Cuomo’s office withheld data on the deaths of nursing home patients, declining to cooperate with the Trump administration’s request for the information, which the governor said was likely made in an effort to embarrass Democratic governors like Cuomo and portray them as handling the coronavirus pandemic badly.
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Cuomo, the Times report suggested, also appeared to avoid disclosing accurate numbers regarding nursing home deaths by asking for further analysis of the data, while releasing a best-selling book heralding his own coronavirus response in October. The governor also used the supposedly low percentage of nursing home deaths as a “talking point” regarding his approach to the pandemic.
MSNBC anchor Chris Hayes said the behavior detailed in the revelations was “enraging and unforgivable,” while a number of critics called for the governor’s resignation or removal.
“It is unfathomable that Andrew Cuomo is still in office,” tweeted journalist Mark Harris.
The actions of Cuomo and his aides represent “the opposite of transparency and the opposite of good government,” the watchdog group Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington tweeted.