Updated: January 29, 2021 06:09 PM
Created: January 29, 2021 04:50 PM
ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WHEC) — The State of New York has finally released statistics on the number of nursing home residents who died from COVID-19, but it took a critical report from the NYS Attorney General’s office to make it happen. New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo and Department of Health Commissioner Dr. Howard Zucker addressed the matter at a press briefing on Friday.
The Cuomo administration says it has always been transparent about how many people died of COVID-19 but it was still working on the sub-categories as to who died where when the Attorney General’s report came out on Thursday.
If a person got infected with COVID-19 at a nursing home but actually died in a hospital, until now that causality wasn’t counted as a nursing home death.
Dr. Zucker says that he wasn’t hiding anything but instead had been working since August to adjust the data which he planned to present to the state legislature next month.
“But when I saw the Attorney General’s report, (I) decided that we needed to finish that up quickly and get it out in real-time,” he said.
Melissa DeRosa, Secretary to the Governor elaborated.
“At the beginning of this (pandemic) when it was a real crush you had nursing homes reporting deaths, you had hospitals reporting deaths and I remember DOH was trying to determine whether or not there was going to be double-counting and the cleanest way to do that was to say do it where the person died and then after the fact will go back and do a full audit which is what has happened now,” she said.
That full audit, according to the state, shows 12,743 confirmed and presumed-positive COVID-19 deaths among nursing home residents from the beginning of the pandemic through Jan. 19.
The Cuomo administration has come under scrutiny for a decision made early in the pandemic to send COVID-positive patients back to their nursing homes when they no longer required hospitalization. The governor says he was following federal guidance at the time and that nursing homes weren’t forced to accept them if they didn’t think they could properly care for them and/or control the spread. The governor and his staff have spent months claiming questions on the topic are politically driven.
On Friday, News10NBC Investigative Reporter Jennifer Lewke was able to ask the Governor a question on the topic during his briefing.
Jennifer Lewke - Governor, your staff is often unapologetically aggressive when it comes to defending your policies, particularly on social media. But in this case, many of the people who disagree with this nursing home policy have a very personal connection to it, they lost a loved one during this pandemic with a connection to a nursing home. So, the policy itself aside...who was right, who was wrong... just as a father and son yourself, what would your message be to those families today?
Gov. Andrew Cuomo - What I would say is everyone did the best they could. When I say the State Department of Health as the report said, The State Department of Health followed federal guidance so if you think there was a mistake then go talk to the federal government. It’s not about pointing fingers or blame, this became a political football right? Look, whether a person died in a hospital or died in a nursing home the people died, people died… I understand the pain I understand the search for answers but it was a tragedy and I feel the anguish and I feel the pain and I get the anger. My father died, I wish I had someone to blame it would've made me feel better maybe but they're in my thoughts and prayers.
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