The controversial directive for nursing homes to accept COVID-19 patients in the midst of the pandemic likely led to a spike in resident deaths, an analysis of its own data revealed Thursday.
The Empire Center for Public Policy non-profit study linked “several hundred and possibly more than 1,000” deaths to the order since 25 March 2020 that critics have blamed for spreading coronavirus among vulnerable seniors.
The analysis also suggests that the controversial mandate is “associated” with more than one in six of 5,780 nursing deaths nationwide between late March and early May.
“The findings contradict a central conclusion of the state Department of Health’s July 6 report on coronavirus in nursing homes, which said, among other things: ‘Admission policies were not a significant factor in nursing home fatalities,’ and ‘the data do not show a consistent relationship between admissions and increased mortality,’ ” according to a draft report prepared by the Empire Center.
The DOH report mainly blamed the spread of COVID-19 in nursing homes to infected but asymptomatic staff and visitors, and it has repeatedly been cited by Gov. Andrew Cuomo to deny any responsibility—even though he himself warned on March 29, “Coronavirus in a nursing home is like fire in dry grass.”
Cuomo aide confesses to cover-up of nursing home virus deaths
The admission of the alleged cover-up was made by Secretary to the Governor Melissa DeRosa during a video conference call with state Democratic leaders on Feb. 11, according to an audio recording obtained by The New York Post.
It comes ahead of new disclosure of data which reveals that nearly 15,000 nursing home residents died of coronavirus, much higher than the 8,500 figure previously disclosed.
DeRosa allegedly told Democrats that the administration feared the data could “be used against us” by the Justice Department (DOJ).
In the conference call on Thursday, DeRosa reportedly admitted that they deliberately hid the data from state legislators after the Trump administration began asking questions.
“Eight around the same time, [then-President Donald Trump] turns this into a giant political football,” she said.
“He starts tweeting that we killed everyone in nursing homes,” she added.
“He starts going after [New Jersey Gov. Phil] Murphy, starts going after [California Gov. Gavin] Newsom, starts going after [Michigan Gov.] Gretchen Whitmer.”
DeRosa said Trump also, “directs the Department of Justice to do an investigation into us.”
“And basically, we froze,” she told the lawmakers on the call.
“Because then we were in a position where we weren’t sure if what we were going to give to the Department of Justice, or what we give to you guys, what we start saying, was going to be used against us while we weren’t sure if there was going to be an investigation.”
DeRosa added, “That played a very large role into this.”
She then asked lawmakers for “a little bit of appreciation of the context,” and offered an apology for the “political position” that Cuomo’s order put them in.
“We do apologize,” she told the officials.
“I do understand the position that you were put in. I know that it is not fair. It was not our intention to put you in that political position with the Republicans.”
Cuomo defends New York’s response
“The New York State Department of Health fully and publicly reported all COVID deaths in nursing homes and hospitals. They have always been fully reported,” Cuomo said during a news conference on Feb. 15. “We paused the state legislature’s request. We voluntarily complied with the [Department of Justice’s] request for information. Two very different things.”
“Nursing homes have the most vulnerable populations, we know that.”
Cuomo said there was no connection between the nursing home questions and emergency powers that he used.
Cuomo, a Democrat, said that “all deaths in nursing homes and hospitals were fully, publicly, and accurately reported,” adding that there was a “delay in providing the press and the public with providing all that additional information.”
“The truth is everybody did the best they could,” he said. “The truth is it was the middle of a terrible pandemic. The truth is, COVID attacks older people. The truth is, with all we know, people still die.”
Last week, more than a dozen Democratic lawmakers called for the removal of Cuomo’s powers after a New York Post report revealed that his administration allegedly covered up nursing home death data and apologized to state Democratic lawmakers in a private conference call.
“While COVID-19 has tested the limits of our people and state—and, early during the pandemic, required the government to restructure decision making to render rapid, necessary public health judgments—it is clear that the expanded emergency powers granted to the Governor are no longer appropriate,” the 14 Democrats said. “While the executive’s authority to issue directives is due to expire on April 30, we urge the Senate to advance and adopt a repeal as expeditiously as possible.”