A bombshell report published by The New York Times on Thursday night made the allegation that top aides to New York Governor Andrew Cuomo (D) rewrote a report prepared by New York Department of Health officials back in June, omitting many of the nursing home deaths due to COVID-19 in the state.
The report was based on interviews with anonymous officials in the Cuomo administration and claims that the data was changed in order to shield the governor from backlash stemming from his decision to order nursing homes to readmit patients who had tested positive for COVID-19.
The changes to the report were made months before the federal investigation into the nursing home deaths began.
According to the Times, the dispute in the report arose over whether to include “out of facility” deaths—that is, deaths that occurred when nursing home residents were transferred back to hospitals or other acute care facilities before their death—in the total count of nursing home residents who died of COVID-19. State Department of Health officials had wanted to include those deaths in the report as most other states did.
Cuomo’s aides, whom the Times points out lacked any public health background or expertise, argued with the Department of Health in a disagreement that the paper described as going “well beyond the usual process of the governor’s office suggesting edits to an agency report.” The pushback led Department of Health officials to worry that the report to be released was “no longer a true scientific report,” but those same officials “feared for their jobs if they did not go along.”
To add insult to injury, the controversial decision was finalized just days before Cuomo sought approval from a state ethics agency to earn money from sales of his book about how he handled the virus within his state, for which he was paid an advance of $783,000 by Harper Collins.
Ultimately, the report declared that Cuomo’s policies were broadly consistent with federal guidance regarding nursing homes but “may have put residents at increased risk of harm in some facilities.”
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