‘People died because of it’: Health experts rip Andrew Cuomo’s report on nursing home deaths

Andrew Kerr, DCNF

(Photo by Matthew Cavanaugh/Getty Images)

New York Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo is receiving widespread criticism from health experts over an internal report he recently touted that claimed his state’s order requiring nursing homes to accept coronavirus-positive patients did not contribute to a surge in deaths.

The report, released last week by the New York State Department of Health (NYSDOH), said that the March 25 order resulted in approximately 6,326 coronavirus-positive patients being admitted to nursing homes, but also said it “could not be the driver of nursing home infections or fatalities.”

Instead, the report said the primary drivers behind the state’s massive nursing home death toll were workers at the facilities who unknowingly passed coronavirus onto their patients.

Multiple health experts told The Associated Press that the report failed to adequately address the impact the directive had on the state’s death toll.

“It seems like the Department of Health is trying to justify what was an untenable policy,” University of California at San Fransisco nursing professor Charlene Harrington told the AP.

“They really need to own the fact that they made a mistake, that it was never right to send COVID patients into nursing homes and that people died because of it,” added California Association of Long Term Care Medicine President Dr. Michael Wasserman.

Another expert, University of Texas, Houston epidemiologist Catherine Troisi, told the AP that the report did not address nursing homes that did not have coronavirus infections prior to being forced to accept patients who tested positive for the virus.

“Would this get published in an academic journal? No,” Troisi told the AP.

Nearly 6,500 residents of New York’s nursing homes and adult care facilities have died of coronavirus as of Tuesday. However, the figure only represents patients who died while physically at their long-term care facility, a reporting practice that the NYSDOH previously admitted to the Daily Caller News Foundation undercounts the true fatality figure.

Cuomo referred to the report’s finding as he accused critics of his state’s order of playing politics during a press conference on July 6.

“It was pure politics and it was ugly politics. And now the report has the facts, and the facts tell the exact opposite story,” Cuomo said.

However, the governor did not disclose that a consulting firm that helped develop New York’s coronavirus strategy early on also helped the NYSDOH analyze the impact the March 25 order had on nursing home deaths, the DCNF previously reported.

Republican Rep. Steve Scalise of Louisiana, the ranking member on the select subcommittee on the coronavirus crisis, said the NYSDOH report Cuomo touted was based on “half-baked data manipulations” and “flawed methodology” in a letter to the governor on Thursday.

The report, Scalise said, “appears to be little more than your administration’s latest attempt to deflect criticism and shift blame for the consequences of your deadly nursing home order.”

Cuomo spokesman Rich Azzopardi accused Republicans of “denying science” in a statement to the AP responding to Scalise’s letter.

“We’re used to Republicans denying science but now they are screeching about time, space and dates on a calendar to distract from the federal government’s many, many, embarrassing failures. No one is buying it,” Azzopardi said.

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