Gov. Cuomo's coronavirus response, deflections on nursing home deaths in New York: A timeline

Gov. Cuomo's coronavirus response, deflections on nursing home deaths in New York: A timeline

Cuomo slammed for ’embarrassing’ press briefing: Still trying to pass the buck on COVID

Former Maryland GOP congressional candidate Kim Klacik blasts New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s press conference following the state attorney general report on nursing home deaths.

Recently released data that shows New York may have undercounted the number of novel coronavirus deaths at nursing homes by more than 50% solidified previously reported concerns regarding the Empire State’s pandemic response at such facilities.

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo told reporters during a Friday press conference that “everybody did the best they could.”

A 76-page report released by Attorney General Letitia James’ office on Thursday found New York State may have undercounted COVID-19 deaths among nursing home residents by thousands –  backing up the findings of an Associated Press investigation last year that focused on the fact that New York is one of the only states in the nation that count residents who died on nursing home property and not those who later died in hospitals.

The method of counting allowed Cuomo to boast that his state had a lower percentage of nursing home deaths compared to other states.

But such an undercount would mean the state’s current official tally of 8,711 nursing home deaths to the virus is actually more than 13,000, boosting New York from No. 6 to highest in the nation.

“While we cannot bring back the individuals we lost to this crisis, this report seeks to offer transparency that the public deserves,” Attorney General Letitia James said in a statement.

State Health Commissioner Dr. Howard Zucker said Friday it was “inaccurate” for the report to describe the number of deaths as being “undercounted.”


“It’s not about pointing fingers or blame, it’s that this became a political football, right?” Cuomo noted during the press conference. “Look, whether a person died in a hospital or died in a nursing home … people died. People died. … By the way, the same people are dying today.”

AP’s analysis in August concluded that the state could be undercounting deaths by as much as 65%, based on discrepancies between its totals and numbers being reported to federal regulators. That analysis was, like James’ report, based on only a slice of data, rather than a comprehensive look.

James’ investigators looked at a sample of 62 of the state’s roughly 600 nursing homes. They reported 1,914 deaths of residents from COVID-19, while the state Department of Health logged only 1,229 deaths at those same facilities. One unnamed facility, for example, had an official death toll of 11 but the attorney general’s probe found that 40 had actually died.


The report from James, a fellow Democratic official, undercut Cuomo’s frequent argument that the criticism of his handling of the virus in nursing homes was part of a political “blame game,” and it was a vindication for thousands of families who believed their loved ones were being omitted from counts to advance the governor’s image as a pandemic hero.

As noted by reports and Grabien Media founder Tom Elliott, for months, Cuomo deflected the blame on other people – such as nursing home staff – or defended his administration by claiming the Empire State was doing better than others in protecting its most vulnerable.


The first COVID-19 case reported in New York at the beginning of March 2020 and the state quickly grew to be a hotspot in the country.

On March 25, Cuomo’s administration enacted a policy that sought to create more space in hospitals by releasing recovering COVID-19 patients into nursing homes.

The AP investigation found that hospitals around the state released more than 4,500 recovering coronavirus patients to nursing homes under the directive, which prohibited nursing homes from refusing to take in patients because they had or may have had COVID-19.

James’ report said those admissions “may have contributed to increased risk of nursing home resident infection and subsequent fatalities,” and noted that at least 4,000 nursing home residents with COVID-19 died after that guidance. But the report said the issue would require further study to conclusively prove such a link.

MAY 2020

Cuomo’s office announced on May 10 that patients being moved from a hospital to a New York nursing home must first test negative for COVID.

The governor’s office also said from March 1 to May 1, more than 4,800 people in New York nursing homes died from COVID-19, accounting for approximately 25% of all New York deaths.

After a flood of criticism regarding the March 25 directive, Cuomo was asked in mid-May if he had a comment for families who are seeking accountability and felt as though they had been failed.

He responded: “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.”

“Older people, vulnerable people, are going to die from this virus,” Cuomo added. “That is going to happen despite whatever you do, with all our progress as a society, we can’t keep everyone alive. Older people are more vulnerable.  That is a fact that is not going to change.”

The reporter followed up by saying some people felt that the negative test mandate enacted that month could have prevented deaths, to which Cuomo responded: “People rationalize death in different ways.”

He added: “I don’t think there is any logical rationale to say they would be alive today.”

JUNE 2020

Speaking to NBC’s “Meet the Press” on June 28, Cuomo said he’s “taken political heat,” and people should not be pointing fingers at New York over its nursing home response. He the criticism to politics, rather than facts, according to a transcript of the interview.

“In New York, we’re number 46 in the nation in terms of percentage of deaths at nursing homes, compared to the total percentage,” he said, referencing data released by the New York Times. “It’s been unfortunate in every state and we have to do more. We have to figure it out, but if they want to point fingers, not at New York. We’re number 46.

He added that there were “45 other states to point fingers at first.”

JULY 2020

State officials announced at the beginning of the month that New York hospitals sent more than 6,300 recovering COVID-19 patients into nursing homes under the controversial March policy.

Health officials contended in their report that the virus’ rampant spread through the state’s nursing homes was propelled by more than 20,000 infected home staffers, many of whom kept going to work unaware they had the virus in March and April. Another 17,500 workers were infected through early June.

The state report also said that 80% of the state’s 310 nursing homes that took COVID-19 patients already had cases before Cuomo issued his order.

But the report only looked at the number of residents who died inside nursing homes and not at hospitals.

“Facts matter. And those are the facts,” Zucker said in a news conference at the time.

The health commissioner said there was “no reason to place blame” on anyone.

“If you were to place blame, I would blame coronavirus,” Zucker said.

According to the Associated Press, scientists, health care professionals and elected officials assailed the state report for flawed methodology and selective stats that sidestepped the actual impact of the March 25 order. And some accused the state of using the veneer of a scientific study to absolve the Democratic governor by reaching the same conclusion he had been floating for weeks — that unknowingly infected nursing home employees were the major drivers of the outbreaks.


In August, Cuomo pushed back against calls for an independent investigation into the state’s handling of COVID-linked nursing home deaths.

“I wouldn’t do an investigation whether or not it’s political, everybody can make that decision for themselves,” he said during a press conference on Aug. 10. “I think you’d have to be blind to realize it’s not political.”

At the end of the month, the Justice Department sent letters to Cuomo and three other states seeking data on whether they violated federal law by ordering public nursing homes to accept recovering COVID-19 patients from hospitals.

Spokespeople for Cuomo, Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer and New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy argued that the fact that all the states are led by Democrats and the timing of the move — in the midst of the Republican National Convention — spoke volumes about the political nature of the inquiry.


At the end of October, the U.S. Justice Department expanded its efforts to determine whether New York was undercounting COVID-19 deaths among nursing home residents, demanding detailed data from hundreds of private facilities.

Cuomo’s spokesperson told the AP that the time that the Justice Department’s latest request was a politically motivated “sham” and a “scummy abuse of power.”

The letter from the Justice Department’s civil rights division asked the state to hand over a breakout of hospital deaths that its health department had been collecting since at least April but not made public. It broadens to more than 600 nursing homes a similar request the DOJ made in August that was aimed only at a few dozen publicly run facilities.

Fox News’ Morgan Phillips, Brooke Singman and The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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