Surprise: New York State is undercounting COVID deaths by more than 10,000

AP Photo/Mark Lennihan

You would think the humiliation of having New York’s own attorney general expose the nursing-home undercount would have led Cuomo’s administration to be forthright about their other data. Being caught in a cover-up to minimize the severity of the pandemic is egregious, but it’s an opportunity at least to come clean with the public, reset, and promise to be honest going forward.

They’re still covering up, according to the AP.

Strangely, though, they’re doing it in plain sight. Cuomo got away with hiding the nursing-home data for the entirety of 2020 because it was compiled by his own administration’s officials. His team was able to successfully suppress its release for months. The data on the total state death toll comes from death certificates, though, which are publicly available. The CDC knows the true statewide number, which stands at around 54,000, as does the New York City health department. Team Cuomo continues to run with 43,000 as its official toll, which one CDC official described as “a little strange” to the AP. Why try to cover up when the truth is commonly known?

Sheer force of habit?

The Cuomo administration’s count includes only laboratory-confirmed COVID-19 deaths at hospitals, nursing homes and adult-care facilities. That means its tally excludes people who died at home, hospice, in state prisons or at state-run homes for people living with disabilities.

It also excludes people who likely died of COVID-19 but never got a positive test to confirm the diagnosis. Tests were scarce in the early stages of New York’s outbreak. At least 5,000 New York City residents likely died of COVID-19 without a positive test, according to city statistics.

The gap has widened even as testing has become more widely available, with the CDC data showing at least 3,200 more COVID-19 deaths in the state than New York’s own tracker so far in 2021.

Read that last line again. The undercount is getting worse even as the pandemic has eased in New York thanks to widespread vaccination and the truth about Cuomo’s early nursing-home cover-up has become public knowledge. There’s no political reason for his administration to still be lowballing the numbers. In fact, the New York Times ran a piece months ago, in March, noting that “excess deaths” from all causes in New York since the start of the pandemic already approached 56,000. Four months later, the number is even higher. So why seemingly arbitrarily exclude people based on where they died or because they were “probable” COVID deaths who were never formally tested?

“Generally, states’ death counts are higher than the federal government’s because the CDC needs time to tally records collected from the states,” the AP points out. Somehow Cuomo’s New York is the exception. We’re left to wonder: What does the undercount supposedly accomplish for him? All it does is make Cuomo look shadier to the extent that’s possible. Maybe the idea was to move New York behind Texas in total deaths; Greg Abbott’s state has seen almost 53,000, fewer than Cuomo’s despite having a much larger population but many more than Cuomo’s if you’re using the state’s lowball count. It’s worth noting, though, that even by that lower count New York would have more deaths than Florida, another state with a larger population (and a large population of vulnerable senior citizens too).

Somehow it was Ron DeSantis who was attacked baselessly by critics for supposedly cooking his state’s books when in reality it was Cuomo who was doing it in New York with nursing homes. And who continues to do it with respect to total state deaths.

He’s going to win reelection too. I’d bet decent money on it.