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COVID-19: Cuomo Defends Nursing Home Death Reporting, Calling It 'Political Football'

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo
New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo Photo Credit: ny.gov

Gov. Andrew Cuomo defended his administration’s handling of the counting of COVID-19-related deaths in New York nursing homes, calling it “political” and driven by former President Donald Trump.

In his latest public comment on the subject following a scathing report that found his top aides worked for months to obscure the number of virus-related deaths in nursing homes, Cuomo sought to defend his administration while explaining the confusion in the data that was publicly released.

“Let’s talk some facts about what was happening with nursing homes,” Cuomo said following a COVID-19 briefing in Buffalo on Thursday, April 29. “That became highly politicized between the federal government and state governments.

“I was critical of the federal government for not doing enough on COVID, and the federal government was blaming Democratic states for not handling it, so it was highly political,” he added. "We were in the middle of a presidential campaign and the president was blaming Democratic governors and pointing to nursing homes as the problem, blaming them.”

Cuomo repeatedly reiterated that his administration’s goal was to provide accurate numbers, noting that every state was counting nursing home deaths differently, creating further confusion.

“If a person was in a nursing home for a week, then was sent to a hospital and died within one day of getting in there, do we count it as a nursing home death? What if it’s seven days later? Is that a hospital death or a nursing home death,” he said. “It’s dancing on the head of a pin.

“Some (states) counted just the number of deaths in nursing homes, some counted people who were in nursing homes and sent to the hospital and later died in the hospital,” Cuomo noted. “The number of nursing home deaths is hard to count because all states counted it differently.”

Calling it “political football,” Cuomo stated that accurately reporting the number of deaths in nursing homes became a red vs. blue debate once the Department of Justice was called in to start an investigation into the number of people who died in nursing homes.

“So it started as a political football, and then we wanted to make sure the number was accurate, but many different states counted in many different ways, and we didn't want an inaccurate number,” he said. “Then the Department of Justice starts a political investigation and that ‘freezes the situation’ because lawyers said we have to be very careful.”

Cuomo again defended his administration in stating that during his regular COVID-19 conferences, he only reported the total number of virus-related deaths, not specifying how many were in nursing homes due to the confusion in counting the number of fatalities.

“The total number is what we put out there every day. Then it got turned into a political game of ‘oh let’s count how many (died) in nursing homes versus how many were in a hospital, and there are all sorts of questions and variables,” he said.

“Today, with retrospect, when you go back and find states have all different ways of counting, but the only number that matters is the total number of deaths.” 

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