NY AG Letitia James reluctantly outs Team Cuomo’s nursing-home horrors
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Attorney General Letitia James has finally, and reluctantly, confirmed the ugly truth that Gov. Cuomo’s people have long strived to conceal but most New Yorkers suspected: The number of nursing-home residents who’ve died from COVID-19 is much higher than Cuomo’s administration claims — likely more than 50 percent higher.
James soft-pedals criticism of her political patron and his mad mandate that sent COVID-positive patients into the state’s most vulnerable population, but the facts she presents are damning enough. More, she notes the lack of evidence for Cuomo’s claim that nursing-home staff, not his edict, spread the deadly virus, killing thousands.
James’ damning 76-page report follows months of stonewalling by Team Cuomo. Lawmakers from both parties have demanded the true number of nursing-home-resident deaths; so has the Empire Center, via a Freedom of Information lawsuit. But Cuomo and Health Commissioner Howard Zucker refused to provide the info, with a series of absurd and contradictory excuses.
James got data directly from 62 nursing homes: 1,914 of their residents died from COVID, 56 percent more than the 1,229 reported by the state, which refuses to count those who died after being transferred to a hospital.
If that undercount proves consistent throughout the state, New York’s nursing-home deaths total more than 13,000, where the state tallies just 8,711.
“This report seeks to offer transparency that the public deserves and to spur increased action to protect our most vulnerable residents,” James said.
Team Cuomo has failed on both the transparency and action fronts from the pandemic’s start, repeatedly opting instead for various whitewashes. In July, a Health Department report denied any wrongdoing relating to its March 25 order that homes accept COVID-positive patients — though 323 facilities had no reported infections until they took in such patients from hospitals.
James goes easy on Cuomo, but her report at least admits the mandate “may have put residents at increased risk of harm in some facilities.” After all, it wouldn’t even let homes test incoming patients for the virus, leading some administrators to feel discouraged from testing at all.
The AG notes the DOH report blamed the home’s staff for infecting patients but also points out that it gave only “circumstantial support” with “no presentation of additional evidence.” She also flags how the DOH report skipped over the fact that homes were forced to accept many patients while they remained inside the nine-day window for still being infectious.
James lists other factors behind the high nursing-home death rate, such as “insufficient personal protective equipment” for staff, and says her office is continuing its investigation.
Zucker, meanwhile, released a defensive statement on how the DOH hadn’t concealed the total number of deaths, and anyway it’s all the Trump administration’s fault. Shameful.
Assemblyman Ron Kim (D-Queens), who lost his uncle in a nursing home, told The Post he “might have cried a little” when he heard about James’ report. Tears are absolutely in order for the thousands of needlessly dead New Yorkers. But so is accountability for the officials behind this disaster. For starters, the entire Legislature should join the chorus demanding Zucker’s head on a platter — and immediately start gathering sworn testimony about Cuomo’s role.
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