NY has undercounted COVID nursing home deaths to bolster Cuomo: Comptroller

The state health department deliberately “misled” the public. Number of deaths in nursing homes of COVID-19 to brush up on former Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s reputation before a sexual harassment scandal forced him to do so resign in disgraceaccording to the testing of a blistering comptroller released on Tuesday.

Examiners found that DOH officials had undercounted the death toll by at least 4,100 residents and at times by more than 50 percent, allowing Cuomo to repeatedly and falsely claim that New York is doing a better job than others at protecting high-risk seniors states, the report said.

“While the Department’s duty is to act solely to advance public health, we have found that instead of providing accurate and reliable information during a public health emergency, the Department has instead adapted its presentation to match the Executive Branch’s narrative and often presented data to the public in misleading ways,” the report said.

In a prepared statement, Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli called the exam results “extremely worrying.”

New York Attorney General Letitia James
New York State Attorney General Letitia James promised her office would continue to “monitor conditions in nursing homes.”
AP Photo/Seth Little, file

“Families have a right to know whether their loved one’s COVID-19 death has been counted, but many still have no answers from the Department of Health,” he said.

“The public was misled by those at the highest level of state government through distortion and suppression of the facts when New Yorkers deserved the truth.”

DiNapoli also accused the DOH of obstructing its investigation by delaying the creation of data requested by its office, limiting investigators’ access to DOH staff, not answering questions during sessions, and failing to provide supporting evidence for its claims.

Seen in this March 20, 2021 file photo is Lindsey Boylan, a former adviser on state economic development to Governor Andrew Cuomo
Lindsey Boylan, a former state economic development adviser to then-Governor Andrew Cuomo, accused him of sexual harassment.
AP Photo/Eduardo Munoz Alvarez, file

“These are not routine actions by state agencies undergoing an Office of the State Comptroller review and raise serious concerns about the control environment at DOH,” his office said in a press release.

the 58-page exam says the DOH has “used alternating methods to account for nursing home deaths” during the pandemic and “consistently understated totals through February 4, 2021” — about a week after Attorney General Letitia James issued a report in which the state official said the death toll in nursing homes could have been high undercounted by up to 50 percent.

In a prepared statement, James said DiNapoli “confirmed many of the findings we uncovered last year about the state’s response to COVID, particularly that the DOH and former governor undercounted the number of nursing home deaths.”

Then New York Governor Andrew Cuomo
Then Gov. Andrew Cuomo was slammed for cheering with his brother Chris on CNN in 2020 about New York’s low COVID-19 deaths.
Lev Radin/Pacific Press/Shutterstock

“I am grateful to Comptroller DiNapoli for bringing much-needed transparency to this critical issue,” she said.

“My office will continue to monitor conditions in care homes and ensure the safety of our most vulnerable residents.”

Following James’ report, The Post exclusively revealed that Melissa DeRosa, Cuomo’s top aide, secretly told the state’s Democratic lawmakers about his government on February 10, 2021 covered up the death toll at the nursing home due to a possible federal investigation into the state’s response to the pandemic.

Comptroller of the State of New York, Thomas DiNapoli
Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli accused the Department of Health of misleading New Yorkers “through distortion and oppression.”
Anthony Behar/Sipa USA

“Because we were in a position at the time where we weren’t sure if what we were going to give the Justice Department or what we were going to give you guys, what we’re starting to say, would be used against us while we were I’m not sure there would be an investigation,” she said.

Before the revelations was Cuomo, 64 flying high about the popularity of his daily coronavirus briefings, which he was for honored with the “Founders Award” of the International Emmys during a livestream event that stars Robert DeNiro, Ben Stiller, Spike Lee, Rosie Perez, Billy Crystal and Billy Joel.

But the publication of an online essay on February 24, 2021, in which former state development official Lindsey Boylan accused him of sexual harassment led to an avalanche of allegations and an investigation into James, which concluded that he had molested 11 women, including nine current or former government employees.

Rep. Ron Kim
Rep. Ron Kim calls for “full accountability” from Health Department and former Gov. Andrew Cuomo.
Jacob Messerschmidt

He resigned in August under threat of almost certain impeachment, claiming the scandal surrounding him was “politically motivated” but wanted to spare the state “months of political and legal controversy”.

Younger brother Chris Cuomo’s career as a CNN anchor also went up in flames when evidence released by James late last year revealed he had worked behind the scenes amid the scandal with his brother’s advisers and secretly attempted to get dirt on at least one unearth accusers.

Rep. Ron Kim (D-Queens), whose uncle died of suspected COVID-19 in a nursing home, said he was “very grateful” for DiNapoli’s “thorough review that confirms what many nursing home families already knew: the former governor is suppressed.” and covers information of life and death that could have been used to save lives.”

Melissa DeRosa (L), secretary to New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, listens as Cuomo speaks during his daily briefing in a conference room at the New York Stock Exchange in New York.
Top Cuomo assistant Melissa DeRosa at a COVID-19 briefing with then-Governor Andrew Cuomo at the New York Stock Exchange on May 26, 2020.

“I believe this is a criminal public fraud and I join the families of the victims in demanding full accountability,” he said.

Cuomo spokesman Rich Azzopardi attempted to downplay and discredit the exam.

“As the number of deaths outside the facility was reported last January, this is not news, but what is special is that the Comptroller has now released this review – but no one has ever accused him of being above politics,” Azzopardi said in an email.

Families of COVID-19 victims protest then-Governor Andrew Cuomo's nursing home policy at Cobble Hill Health Center in Brooklyn on October 18, 2020.
Families of COVID-19 victims protest then-Governor Andrew Cuomo’s nursing home policy at Cobble Hill Health Center in Brooklyn on October 18, 2020.
AP Photo/Yuki Iwamura, file
In this April 17, 2020 file photo, a patient is wheeled by paramedics to the Cobble Hill Health Center in the Brooklyn borough of New York.
The revealing review by Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli says the Department of Health has “consistently understated” the number of COVID-19 deaths in care homes.
AP Photo/John Minchillo, file

The DOH did not immediately respond to a request for comment, but questioned many of its conclusions in a written response to a draft of DiNapoli’s audit.

The DOH said the reviewers “did not adequately consider the various types of quantitative and qualitative information that department staff used to help respond to the Covid-19 pandemic; the various practical trade-offs that exist between different types of infection and mortality data; or the positive efforts that department staff have made in recent years to improve both the volume and reliability of information collected from nursing homes to meet the challenges of the ongoing pandemic.” NY has undercounted COVID nursing home deaths to bolster Cuomo: Comptroller


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