News & Politics

Here’s Exactly How Andrew Cuomo Covered up His Deadly Nursing Home Policy

AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin

New York, particularly downstate New York, isn’t just the hot-spot of the coronavirus pandemic of the United States. Nowhere else in the world did as poorly, thanks to Governor Cuomo and NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio. The Wall Street Journal conducted an extensive investigation into the failures of New York’s coronavirus response that is worth reading, but the deadly nursing home policy, and the cover-up that followed, is perhaps the most notable failure, contributing greatly to the state’s poor performance.

On March 25, Cuomo ordered nursing homes to accept patients regardless of their coronavirus status. Even then it was well-known that the elderly were more vulnerable to the virus. Despite the folly of this policy, Cuomo defended it. 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,” Cuomo said in April. He finally rescinded the order on May 11, but the damage had been done. Cuomo enabled a massive outbreak in New York nursing homes and long-term care facilities (NH/LTC) and has been trying to cover up his mistakes ever since with the help of the New York Department of Health.

Cuomo undercounted nursing home deaths 

The first step in the cover-up was to not count the deaths of nursing home residents who died in hospitals in their tallies of nursing home resident deaths. New York was the only state to do this, and, of course, it resulted in a massive undercounting of nursing home deaths. 

The New York State Department of Health (NYSDOH) admitted a couple of months ago that they quietly changed their reporting policy around late April/early May so that nursing home and long-term care patients who died from COVID-19 in a hospital were not included as nursing home COVID-19 fatalities. 

“Deaths of nursing home and adult care facility residents that occurred at hospitals is accounted for in the overall fatality data on our COVID-19 tracker,” explained NYSDOH spokeswoman Jill Montag.

So, what’s the real number of NH/LTC deaths from COVID-19 in New York? The New York Post investigated the number of deaths at just four nursing homes from March through early May, and found the following discrepancies:

  • Cold Spring Hills Center for Nursing & Rehabilitation, Woodbury, LI: 115 actual deaths, 23 state tally (Actual deaths 5x higher than official state tally)
  • Cypress Gardens Center for Nursing & Rehabilitation, Flushing: 76 actual deaths, 7 state tally (Actual deaths 10.85x  higher than official state tally)
  • Seagate Rehabilitation & Nursing Center, Coney Island: 74 actual deaths, 25 state tally (Actual deaths 2.96x  higher than official state tally)
  • Townhouse Center for Rehabilitation & Nursing, Uniondale, LI: 41 actual deaths, 16 state tally (Actual deaths 2.56x  higher than official state tally)

Based on these four facilities, the actual COVID-19 deaths are anywhere from 2.5 times to nearly 11 times higher than New York’s official tally.

Cuomo conduct a phony investigation to vindicate the policy

The cover-up of Cuomo’s deadly nursing home policy continued when the NYSDOH “investigated” the policy and its impact. As you might expect, they concluded that the decision to send patients who tested positive for the coronavirus into nursing homes was not a “significant factor” in the thousands of deaths that occurred in NH/LTC facilities statewide, and then claimed that New York experienced a lower rate of NH/LTC COVID-19 deaths than most other states.

The 33-page  report, issued by Health Commissioner Dr. Howard Zucker, a Cuomo-appointee, blamed nursing home staff and visitors for unknowingly infecting nursing home patients. Cuomo did a victory dance after the report, and claimed criticism of his nursing home policy was based on “pure politics.”

“You had this political conspiracy that the deaths in nursing homes were preventable,” Cuomo said. “And now the report has the facts and the facts tell the exact opposite story.”

So, let’s examine the report.

Cuomo’s investigation relied on his bogus data

According to “Appendix B. Cases and Deaths in Nursing Homes, by State” of the investigation report, which was last updated July 20, New York was the 46th lowest out of 51 states (and D.C.) when ranked by the share of nursing home and long-term care facility COVID-19 deaths to the state’s total COVID-19 deaths.

For this, Cuomo patted himself on the back, but here’s the problem: the NYDOH report based their numbers on the New York Timesinteractive dataset, which used New York’s official tally, which, as has been previously established, is significantly undercounting nursing home and long-term care facility deaths. But, before we get into that, let’s see what those numbers say right now:

  • NH/LTC deaths (official): 6,566
  • Total state deaths (official): 32,305
  • NH/LTC share: 20 percent

As noted above, there are discrepancies between the state tally of these deaths and the true number, but for the purpose of this examination, I’m just going to go with the low-end estimate and assume the actual numbers are 2.5 times higher than the state’s official numbers, just to see where things land:

  • NH/LTC  deaths (adjusted 2.5x): 16,415
  • NH/LTC  share: 51 percent

That’s quite a jump: 20 percent to 51 percent. Keep in mind that New York is the only state that is deliberately undercounting these deaths. Even if Governor Cuomo conceded this point, he would likely point out that 51 percent is still not the worst of all states. According to the New York Times analysis, New Hampshire leads the country with 81 percent of its COVID-19 deaths being attributed to NH/LTC facilities. New York would end up ranking 21st-highest of 51, which is still a lot worse than 46 out of 51, but not the worst in the country. Why is that?

Cuomo’s investigation relied on a bogus metric

As previously mentioned, New York’s response to the coronavirus was botched in more ways than just the nursing home policy. New York’s failures to protect the public outside of nursing homes means that cases and deaths of the general population would also be higher than most states, even on a per capita basis. This means that because COVID-19 deaths of the general public in New York are so much higher per capita compared to other states that did a better job protecting their people, the share of nursing home deaths compared to deaths overall will be lower by comparison. In short, it’s not an apples-to-apples comparison.

Since we’re assessing the nursing home policy and its impact on that population, we’ll actually get a far more accurate representation of the impact of Cuomo’s policy if we measure nursing home and long-term facilities’ resident deaths against each state’s totals for just that population.

So going back to the NYDOH report, we can see that the numbers needed to make this analysis are conveniently provided. So, let’s compare the states’ numbers for NH/LTC deaths compared to their respective NH/LTC resident populations, based on the numbers used in the NYDOH report:

  1. New Jersey: 6,617 deaths out of 44,033 residents (15.03%)
  2. Connecticut: 3,124 deaths out of 22,653 residents (13.79%)
  3. Massachusetts: 5,115 deaths out of 38,673 residents (13.23%)
  4. Rhode Island: 715 deaths out of 7,817 residents (9.15%)
  5. Maryland: 1,924 deaths out of 24,414 residents (7.88%)
  6. District of Columbia: 173 deaths out of 2,380 residents (7.27%)
  7. New York (official): 6,432 deaths out of 101,518 residents (6.34%)
  8. Delaware: 263 deaths out of 4,181 residents (6.29%)
  9. Pennsylvania: 4,518 deaths out of 76,652 residents (5.89%)
  10. Colorado: 910 deaths out of 16,078 residents (5.66%)

New York comes in at 7 with their NH/LTC death accounting for 6.34 percent of that population in the state. But, that’s based on the official state tally. What happens when we correct for this undercounting by assuming a 2.5 times increase in deaths?

  1. New York (adjusted): 16,080 deaths out of 101,518 residents (15.84%)
  2. New Jersey: 6,617 deaths out of 44,033 residents (15.03%)
  3. Connecticut: 3,124 deaths out of 22,653 residents (13.79%)
  4. Massachusetts: 5,115 deaths out of 38,673 residents (13.23%)
  5. Rhode Island: 715 deaths out of 7,817 residents (9.15%)

A far more accurate comparison of nursing home deaths by each state puts New York above them all with the worst rate of deaths per that population. And this based on a modest assumption of only a 2.5x discrepancy between the official state tally and the actual. It could be significantly higher.

It’s a cover-up

The true story of just how bad Cuomo’s nursing home policy was is right there in the report. All the data used to make the above calculation came directly from it, but the Cuomo administration used bogus numbers and a bogus metric to make it appear as though New York did exceptionally well compared to other states when it came to nursing home deaths from COVID-19. Nothing could be further from the truth. New York state’s coronavirus response was a total failure and the proof is in the data. It’s about time the media (and Dr. Fauci) start calling Cuomo out for this.

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Matt Margolis is the author of Airborne: How The Liberal Media Weaponized The Coronavirus Against Donald Trump and the bestselling book The Worst President in History: The Legacy of Barack Obama. You can follow Matt on Twitter @MattMargolis

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