Amid revelation of sexual harassment allegations in recent days, a pair of reports released on Thursday say that embattled New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s administration altered reports on coronavirus nursing home deaths.
The New York Attorney General's Office revealed earlier this year that thousands of deaths went uncounted at nursing homes in the state. Back in January, New York Attorney General Letitia James released a scathing report on the way that nursing homes in New York State handled the COVID-19 pandemic. The AG’s office began receiving reports of patient neglect in nursing homes since the virus broke out. In one three-month period starting in March, nearly 800 New Yorkers flooded the phone lines with complaints.
The New York Times reported “changes sought by the governor’s aides fueled bitter exchanges with health officials working on the reports."
Two members of Cuomo's office did not deny the reports in a statement released by his office late Thursday.
"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," Cuomo's office said. "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."
Friday, Beth Garvey, Special Counsel to the Governor released a further statement which said in part:
To be clear, multiple times during the time the July 6 DOH report was being developed, public statements were made during the daily briefings and in the press regarding the existence of the data, but noting that the deaths were being counted in the facility where individuals died. There were repeated public statements acknowledging the out of facility deaths were not being listed as a subset of nursing home deaths stemming from concerns related to potential for double counting and consistency and accuracy.
COVID Taskforce members, including Melissa DeRosa, Linda Lacewell, and Jim Malatras, were involved in reviewing the draft report -- none of them changed any of the fatality numbers or "altered" the fatality data. After asking DOH questions as to the source of the previously unpublished data -- to which there were not clear or complete answers -- and probing to determine whether it was relevant to the outcome of the report, a decision was made to use the data set that was reported by the place of death with firsthand knowledge of the circumstances, which gave a higher degree of comfort in its accuracy. The Chamber concluded that given the uncertainty of one data set that had not been verified, it did not need to be included, because it did not change the ultimate conclusions, as shown in the revised report which did include that additional data. DOH has repeatedly said they support both the original and revised reports as issued.
Earlier in the week, Cuomo told reporters he intends to continue serving as governor amid calls to resign following harassment claims from three women, two of whom were former staffers.
On Monday, James announced a formal investigation into the governor’s conduct.
After initially denying the first accusations against him, Cuomo admitted to "flirtation."
“I acknowledge some of the things I have said have been misinterpreted as an unwanted flirtation. To the extent anyone felt that way, I am truly sorry about that," Cuomo said.