Governor, Health Commissioner respond to AG’s report on COVID-19 & nursing homes

NY Capitol News

ALBANY, N.Y. (NEWS10) – The Cuomo administration has responded to yesterday’s report from the New York Attorney General’s Office, which found the state may have undercounted COVID-19 nursing home resident deaths by 50 percent. 

Despite that report, Health Commissioner Howard Zucker argues that his Department has been transparent on COVID-19 nursing home deaths reported in-facility. “We’ve also said that there have been hospital deaths. Back in August we said that we would get the legislature the number and we were working on that, particularly in anticipation of my budget hearing which is coming up next month,” Zucker said.

The number of nursing home residents who got sick from COVID-19 and later died in hospitals has been sought by lawmakers and advocates for months. The state has counted those fatalities as hospital deaths, not nursing home deaths. But, hours following the AG’s report, the administration put out new data. It indicates the total number of deaths is estimated at more than 12,000 when in-facility, hospital and presumed deaths are combined.

“The total number of deaths does not change. That number has not changed, and we put that out. And to misrepresent that number is factually inaccurate,” Zucker said. 

The Governor maintains the issue has been a political football and that the state followed CDC guidance in its handling of the pandemic. “Look, whether a person died in a hospital or died in a nursing home… people died,” the Governor said. 

Republicans have called on Democrats with subpoena power to subpoena the Department of Health for more answers. They’re also calling for an investigation by the Justice Department. 

Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins says she’s reviewing the AG’s report. “… Nothing will bring back the loved ones that we lost but it is crucial that information guides our responses so this will not happen again,” she said.

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