The Department of Justice sought more information Wednesday about New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s coronavirus nursing home order after his administration has repeatedly failed to produce an accurate number of nursing home deaths.
The Democrat governor’s order has been widely considered to be disastrous because it placed COVID-19 patients with the elderly and people with disabilities, those most vulnerable and likely to die from the virus. Cuomo later reversed the order, but he continually has refused to take responsibility for it.
New York has the highest coronavirus death count and the second highest death rate in the U.S. According to NBC News, as of Tuesday afternoon, New York had 34,341 reported deaths.
On Wednesday, the Department of Justice asked the state for data about the 600-plus nursing homes in the state as well as detailed information about hospital deaths related to COVID-19, WGRZ News 2 reports.
Officially, New York reported 6,722 deaths at nursing homes due to the coronavirus this year. However, the state tally only includes people who died at the facility; nursing home residents who were transferred to hospitals and died there are not included in the total.
The request this week is an expansion of an earlier investigation launched in August that sought data related to Cuomo’s nursing home order, according to the report. The department also requested more information from New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy this week related to a similar nursing home order that he issued in his state, the report states.
Times Union columnist Chris Churchill, the Associated Press and others believe the 6,700-plus reported nursing home deaths are a “significant undercount.”
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“The state is hiding the truth in other words – perhaps to make a controversial March 25 order requiring that nursing homes accept COVID-19 patients appear less catastrophic than it really was,” Churchill wrote in reaction to the new Department of Justice request.
Churchill said Cuomo keeps criticizing the investigation as a political, partisan attack, but it is not true. News outlets with right and left political leanings have been questioning the governor, as have Democrat and Republican lawmakers.
“Journalists and state lawmakers from both parties have repeatedly asked for the full count, only to be stonewalled by Cuomo and the Department of Health,” he wrote. “There’s no logical reason for the secrecy, other than protecting the governor’s reputation.”
Earlier this week, ProPublica, a left-leaning investigative news publication, criticized the Democrat governor for releasing a book praising himself for his handling of the virus – despite his repeated failure to be transparent about the nursing home deaths.
“Cuomo’s new book on leadership, published as the pandemic continues to ravage America, touts his willingness to speak hard truths about the pandemic,” it wrote. “Why then has he still not said how many nursing home residents perished on his watch?”
Many New Yorkers also are demanding answers. The Empire Center for Public Policy recently filed a lawsuit demanding that the state release its data on nursing home deaths.
Janice Dean, a senior meteorologist at Fox News, has been a leading critic of Cuomo after both her in-laws died from the coronavirus in March in assisted living and nursing home facilities in New York.
“Here’s one hard truth Cuomo has still yet to tell: how many nursing home residents have died of COVID-19. 9 months into the pandemic, and three months after his health commissioner testified that he was hard at work counting NH deaths, Cuomo has not announced the grim total,” Dean wrote on Twitter Monday.
She believes Cuomo’s order led to her in-laws’ and other loved ones’ deaths. And she has been calling for an investigation, The Federalist reported last week.
But Cuomo is not alone. Four other Democrat governors also ordered nursing homes to take coronavirus patients: New Jersey, California, Pennsylvania and Michigan. These five states have some of the highest nursing home death numbers, according to data from the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services.
In early June, AARP reported more than 43,000 nursing home residents and staff died from the virus, representing more than one third of all known deaths in the U.S. at the time.
“While dire, this figure is an undercount, experts warn, because not all states are publicly reporting data yet,” according to AARP. “In many states, more than half of coronavirus deaths are connected to long-term care facilities.”
Like so many others, Dean said she wants to know why the governor put vulnerable nursing home patients at risk, why he did not use the other makeshift hospitals for COVID-19 patients instead and why the state still has not released the total number of nursing-home deaths linked to the virus.
“This is not political. It’s about accountability @NYGovCuomo,” she wrote on Twitter. “We won’t stop.”
Earlier this week, the watchdog group OpenTheBooks.com released evidence that Cuomo received campaign donations from hospital groups that lobbied him to enact the nursing home policy, according to the New York Post.