A major Associated Press report this week dove into New York’s nursing home COVID-19 death count and found the numbers outright wrong. The story was shocking. Reporters Bernard Condon, Matt Sedensky and Meghan Hoyer noted that ‘unlike every other state with major outbreaks, New York only counts residents who died on nursing home property and not those who were transported to hospitals and died there.’ But it wasn’t new. In fact, AP had sounded the alarm on the miscount as early as May. They learned New York’s Health Department wasn’t even trying to count the numbers: ‘New York’s Health Department told the AP May 8 it was not tracking how many recovering COVID-19 patients were taken into nursing homes under the order.’
Back then, when AP presented their own tally, the Health Department told them it couldn’t ‘comment on data we haven’t had a chance to review, particularly while we’re still validating our own comprehensive survey of nursing homes admission and readmission data in the middle of responding to this global pandemic.’
The March 25 state directive, which ordered nursing homes to accept COVID-19 positive patients, contributed to the wild spread of the virus among the most vulnerable. Cuomo adamantly refuses to take any responsibility for the order. But New York’s governor was a big defender of the directive. As I wrote in May, ‘During Cuomo’s April 23 press conference, the governor was defiant about his mandate, saying: “[The nursing homes] don’t have a right to object. That is the rule and that is the regulation, and they have to comply with that. If they can’t do it, we’ll put them in a facility that can do it.” It was a crass death sentence for countless New Yorkers.’
Why does it matter if the nursing home deaths are counted correctly? For one thing, if we don’t, Cuomo can shrug his shoulders and deflect blame. In mid-May Cuomo said about the nursing home deaths, ‘How do we get justice for those families? Who can we prosecute for those deaths? Nobody. Mother Nature, God, where did this virus come from? People are going to die by this virus. That is the truth.’
New York was hit first, and hard, and Cuomo pretends all of his actions were the right ones. But the directive proves otherwise: it’s evidence of a giant mistake, one that Cuomo would rather not address.
Any fudging of numbers is an attempt by Gov. Cuomo, and his administration, to deflect responsibility over that directive. It also allows Cuomo to continue basking in undeserved adulation. New York has suffered the brunt of coronavirus deaths, many of them needlessly, yet the governor is treated like some kind of conquering hero. The voices of those who suffered are similarly shut down. Janice Dean, senior meteorologist at Fox News, lost both of her in-laws to COVID-19 in New York nursing homes. She was supposed to speak at the August 10 ‘Joint Public Hearing on COVID-19’s Impact on Residential Healthcare facilities and other long-term care settings’, but was told last-minute she could not participate. Shutting down Dean is a continuation of the cover-up of Cuomo’s mistakes.
People hoping the AP story would lead to a day of reckoning for New York’s governor will be disappointed. The story made a splash on Twitter — but mostly among conservatives. It’s important for the left, wanting to unify against Trump and pin a global pandemic on him, to ignore the travesty of the Cuomo nursing home directive. But responsibility must be taken. Sooner or later Cuomo will have to answer for what he did. And he won’t be able to blame ‘Mother Nature’ or ‘God’.