"All the deaths in the nursing homes and hospitals were always fully, publicly, and accurately reported," New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo said last month, insisting there had been no cover-up of nursing home deaths. Sources tell the Wall Street Journal, however, that Cuomo's aides pushed health officials to remove the deaths of thousands of nursing home residents from a July report, resulting in an undercount of around 50%. The report, issued amid controversy over a March 25 directive banning nursing homes from refusing new or returning residents who had tested positive for COVID-19, initially said more than 9,000 nursing home residents had died from the virus. After the Cuomo aides intervened to exclude deaths of residents who had died after being transferred to hospitals, the number given was 6,432.
The aides involved included Melissa DeRosa, the Democratic governor's top aide, the New York Times reports. The true figures were finally released in February. The aides involved had no public health experience, but state officials argue that the changes were made for the sake of accuracy, not to protect Cuomo's reputation. "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," New York Department of Health spokesperson Gary Holmes said Thursday, per the AP. In more bad news for the embattled governor, Charlotte Bennett and Lindsey Boylan, two of the three women accusing Cuomo of sexual harassment, have rejected the public apology he offered Wednesday, reports Reuters. (Read more Andrew Cuomo stories.)