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 Timesand Wall Street Journal released reports claiming that Cuomo’s aides lobbied to alter a July COVID-19 report on nursing home deaths, citing sources.
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."
Cuomo 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 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."
In response, State Health Department Spokesman Gary Holmes issued a response late Thursday.
"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," Holmes said in a statement. "While the out-of-facility deaths were held aside for verification, the conclusions were supported by both data sets."
On Friday, special counsel to the governor Beth Garvey issued a statement that "out of facility" COVID deaths among residents in nursing homes were not counted in a July report on nursing home deaths because the data had not been verified.
"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," Garvey said.
Earlier on Thursday, 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.