Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) reacted to the revealing report released by New York Attorney General Letitia James, which indicated New York State may have vastly undercounted coronavirus-related deaths in nursing homes. He contended the state has “a lower percentage of deaths in nursing homes than other states.”
Cuomo defended his administration’s actions, telling reporters that everyone did the best they could and that the state Department of Health followed federal guidance as the Chinese coronavirus began to grip the nation.
“If you think there was a mistake, then go talk to the federal government. It’s not about pointing fingers or blame; it’s that this became a political football, right? Look, whether a person died in a hospital or died in a nursing home, it’s — people died. People died,” he said before touting that New York has a lower percentage of deaths in nursing homes than other states.
Those same people, he continued, “are dying today.”
Ninety-six percent who die, he said, “are older people with comorbidities, which happens to be the population that lives in nursing homes. It’s continuing today even with all the testing that we’re doing,” Cuomo said:
“If you look at New York State, we have a lower percentage of deaths in nursing homes than other states. A third of all deaths in this nation are from nursing homes. New York State, we’re only about 28 percent — only,” he repeated with a tone of disappointment.
“But we’re below the national average in number of deaths in nursing homes. But who cares? Thirty-three [percent], 28 [percent], died in a hospital, died in a nursing home. They died.” He added:
And I dealt with the loss of my father. The pain is so incredible and inexplicable ,and why and why and why. It’s a tragedy. It’s a tragedy. And I understand the, maybe, the instinct to blame or to find some relief for the pain that you’re feeling, but it is a tragedy. And it’s a tragedy that continues today. … I believe everybody did the best they could. I believe the federal government, CDC, I believe they gave the best guidance they could.
During Friday’s press conference, Cuomo, alongside New York State Health Commissioner Dr. Howard Zucker, defended the administration’s actions amid the damning report. Zucker told reporters the administration has “always been transparent” about the number of nursing home deaths that were reported in the facilities and said the “total number of deaths does not change.”
“Where this starts is frankly a political attack from prior federal administration HHS, their great spokesperson, Michael Caputo, who’s a Roger Stone protege, who said we have more nursing home deaths in New York because of something that the state Health Department did,” Cuomo added, contending that the report “confirms everything the commissioner said for the past year.”
Cuomo and other Democrat governors, including Pennsylvania’s Tom Wolf (D), have come under fire for initially directing nursing homes to accept coronavirus patients early in the pandemic.
Thursday’s report specifically stated that “a larger number of nursing home residents died from COVID-19 than the New York State Department of Health’s (DOH) published nursing home data reflected and may have been undercounted by as much as 50 percent.”
On Friday, White House press secretary Jen Psaki would not say if Present Biden would support a federal probe into the number of nursing home deaths in the Empire State.
“Any investigation would be led by the Justice Department,” Psaki told reporters.
New York has reported more than 42,000 coronavirus-related fatalities since the start of the pandemic.