Reports: Cuomo advisors pushed NY health officials to alter COVID-19 nursing home deaths report

Cuomo Under Fire

ALBANY, N.Y. (WIVB)– A new report from the Wall Street Journal alleges that Governor Cuomo’s top advisers successfully pushed New York health officials to alter a public report, undercounting COVID-19 nursing home deaths.

The New York Times is also reporting similar information.

The Wall Streets Journal cites “people with knowledge of the report’s production” as their source for their article.

It’s alleged New York State’s July report on COVID-19 nursing home deaths only included those who died in long-term care facilities from the virus. The report excluded those who got sick in nursing homes and passed away in hospitals, according to the WSJ.

According to the Journal’s new reporting, “the report said 6,432 nursing-home residents had died—a significant undercount of the death toll attributed to the state’s most vulnerable population, the people said.”

The Wall Street Journal said the following regarding the nursing home deaths.

“State officials now say more than 15,000 residents of nursing homes and other long-term-care facilities were confirmed or presumed to have died from Covid-19 since March of last year—counting both those who died in long-term-care facilities and those who died later in hospitals. That figure is about 50% higher than earlier official death tolls.”

The Wall Street Journal

In response to the New York Times article New York Department of Health Spokesman Gary Holmes released the following statement:

“This report, which establishes that the March 25 advisory was not a driver of nursing home deaths, was a collaborative process between DOH and the COVID task force. The report’s purpose was to ensure the public had a clear non-political evaluation for how COVID entered nursing homes at the height of the pandemic.  All data sets reviewed came to a common conclusion – that spread from staff was likely the primary driver that introduced COVID into these nursing homes. While early versions of the report included out of facility deaths, the COVID task force was not satisfied that the data had been verified against hospital data and so the final report used only data for in facility deaths, which was disclosed in the report. While the out of facility deaths were held aside for verification, the conclusions were supported by both data sets.  DOH was comfortable with the final report and believes fully in its conclusion that the primary driver that introduced COVID into the nursing homes was spread brought in by staff. Even Bill Hammond of the conservative think tank Empire Center found that the March 25 advisory was not a primary driver of COVID in nursing homes.  The decision was made to initially release the report without the out of facility data and to later update the report to include the out of facility deaths. This was done in February and as Dr Zucker had testified to the legislature, the conclusions remained the same as in July.” 

Gary Holmes, Spokesman, New York Department of Health

Beth Garvey, Special Counsel and Senior Advisor to the Governor, released this statement:

“The out of facility data was omitted after DOH could not confirm it had been adequately verified – this did not change the conclusion of the report, which was and is that the March 25 order was ‘not a driver of nursing home infections or fatalities’. 

 
“COVID Task Force officials did not request that the report conclude the March 25 order played no role; in fact Task Force Members, knowing the report needed to withstand rigorous public scrutiny were very cautious to not overstate the statistical analysis presented in the report. Overall, ensuring public confidence in the conclusion was the ultimate goal of DOH and the COVID Task Force in issuing the report.”

Beth Garvey, Special Counsel and Senior Advisor to the Governor

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