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Gov. Cuomo on nursing home controversy: ‘It’s a lie to say any numbers were inaccurate’

Gov. Andrew Cuomo said it was a mistake to “create a void by not producing public information fast enough” for his handling of nursing home residents during the early days of the pandemic, but remained unapologetic.

News 12 Staff

Feb 20, 2021, 3:16 AM

Updated 1,245 days ago


Gov. Andrew Cuomo and Health Commissioner Dr. Howard Zucker defended their decision to create more hospital space early in the pandemic by putting still recovering COVID-19 patients back into nursing homes, which critics say caused nursing home outbreaks.
The governor said it was a mistake to “create a void by not producing public information fast enough” in regards to nursing home deaths, but remained unapologetic.
"No one has a right to spread lies or misinformation that causes pain to the families,” said the governor during his Friday afternoon briefing. "It's a lie to say any numbers were inaccurate. Total deaths were always reported in nursing homes and hospitals."
Last week Cuomo's top aide Melissa DeRosa, said that the state held off on releasing a fuller death count in August because of fears that President Trump would use the information against Cuomo.  
Some New York lawmakers are pushing to strip Gov. Cuomo of his emergency powers.
Gov. Cuomo explained that a pause was in place on the state Legislature’s request for nursing home death numbers because the Department of Justice request in August was given precedence.
“We told legislators we would pause the state request. Some were offended they weren't given precedence," he said.
Gov. Cuomo then lauded his team, including Health Commissioner Dr. Howard Zucker, who also defended the March 25 directive – saying they were following guidance of the federal government.
"With the facts that we had at that moment in time, it was the correct decision," Zucker said.
Dr. Zucker revealed new information Friday saying that the virus did not spread throughout nursing homes from hospitals, but the staff themselves, and that the spread of COVID-19 in nursing homes was the same before and after the order.
According to Dr. Zucker, of the 613 nursing homes in the state, 365 accepted a person that was hospitalized with the virus. Of those that did, 98% already had COVID-19 in their facility. A total of 132 facilities never took a hospital patient but still had COVID-19 cases.
"March 25 was not the driver of COVID infections, it was not the driver of COVID fatalities. The facts are the facts," said Zucker.
Gov. Cuomo is proposing a series of nursing home reforms that he says must be in this year's budget otherwise he won't sign it.
They include increasing transparency, holding operators accountable for misconduct and prioritizing patient care over profit.
In recent weeks, a court order and state attorney general report has forced the state to acknowledge the nursing home resident death toll is nearly 15,000, when it was previously reported as 8,500 - a number that excluded residents who died after being taken to hospitals. The new toll amounts to about one-seventh of the people living in nursing homes as of 2019 in New York.
Multiple published reports say that federal prosecutors and the FBI are looking into the Cuomo administration's handling of nursing homes during the pandemic.

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