Governor Andrew Cuomo landed himself in hot water during Friday’s press briefing, all while addressing an AOG report noting that the State had undercounted or misrepresented data on COVID-19 deaths within New York nursing homes. The report also suggests, that the decision by Governor Cuomo and Commissioner of Health Howard Zucker to place COVID-19 infected elderly into the same nursing homes as healthy residents, may have increased the overall deaths.
“A third of all deaths in this nation are from nursing homes,” Cuomo said, adding, “In New York State we are only at about 28%, but we are below the national average for number of deaths in nursing homes.”
The part that caused many state residents to bristle was when the Governor said, “But who cares — 33 [percent], 29 [percent] — died in the hospital, died in a nursing home? They died.”
Commissioner of Health Howard Zucker was quick to dump the blame, indicting individual owners of nursing homes as the main cause of chaos, confusion, and loss of life. Zucker further argued that vast numbers were uncounted because they died in a hospital and not at the nursing home.
Zucker remarked, “DOH has consistently made clear that our numbers are reported based on the place of death. DOH does not disagree that the number of people transferred from a nursing home to a hospital is an important data point, and is in the midst of auditing this data from nursing homes. As the OAG report states, reporting from nursing homes is inconsistent and often inaccurate.”
Zucker also made time to criticize individual nursing home practices, taking no time to question his own decision to intermix elderly COVID-19 positive patients with healthy residents throughout New York State nursing homes. Chastising nursing homes, Zucker said,
“The report’s findings that nursing home operators failed to comply with the State’s infection control protocols are consistent with DOH’s own investigation. The report found that operators failed to properly isolate COVID-positive residents; failed to adequately screen or test employees; forced sick staff to continue working and caring for residents; failed to train employees in infection control protocols; and failed to obtain, fit, and train caregivers with PPE.”