It’s barely been a day since we learned about the New York Attorney General’s report indicating that the state had undercounted the number of COVID-19 nursing home deaths by as much as 50%. Last night, John dug into the AG’s report to see how the wheels came off of Governor Andrew Cuomo’s disastrous policies so badly and none of the details made the news any less awful. The first question that came to my mind was how Cuomo was going to respond. Was there any way to paint some lipstick on this toxic pig?
Now we know how the damage control plan is going to roll out. Rather than addressing the matter personally, Cuomo sent out state Health Commissioner, Howard Zucker to do the dirty work. Zucker has found the talking point they’re going to stick with, and it’s painfully obvious that they haven’t come up with much of a cover story. They’re claiming that there was no undercount and everyone is just arguing about semantics. (Spectrum News)
On Thursday, Attorney General Letitia James in a bombshell investigation found the state had been underreporting those deaths by as much as 50% — a key claim Health Commissioner Howard Zucker denies.
Marcella Goheen, whose husband is in a nursing home, says the discussion over numbers should not make people forget the lives that have been lost.
“Every person that lives in a nursing home counts as a person, as a human being and as a human right, a civil right and a disability right to be cared for,” she said. “When COVID entered the scene and infiltrated these places, I think what happened is what everybody is saying is happening: Nobody knew what to do.”
Here’s a portion of the official statement from Zucker on the Governor’s website, explaining why the massive, obvious undercount isn’t really an undercount at all.
The OAG’s report is only referring to the count of people who were in nursing homes but transferred to hospitals and later died. The OAG suggests that all should be counted as nursing home deaths and not hospital deaths even though they died in hospitals. That does not in any way change the total count of deaths but is instead a question of allocating the number of deaths between hospitals and nursing homes. 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.
Did you catch that? Zucker is claiming that all the Governor really ever talked about was the total number of deaths, not the ones where people contracted the virus in a nursing home and were then transferred to a hospital where they passed away. So the total number of deaths is still accurate.
Neither of these things is true.
First of all, the number of nursing home deaths was being tracked specifically because so many of them had turned into superspreader centers so the data was important both to the public and for future planning purposes. Nobody was breaking down the death tolls by location for other reasons. If they had been, we’d have needed to count how many died in their homes, in doctor’s offices or people who simply dropped dead on the street. And the reason the nursing homes were such a keen focus of attention was Andrew Cuomo’s disastrous orders that barred nursing homes from turning away returning residents who had tested positive (or even asking them if they had been tested).
Those were the cause of the rapid spread of the disease among the most vulnerable portions of the population. Trying to claim that there’s no distinction between when and where senior citizens died as long as the total count is correct is beyond disingenuous. It’s political hackery.
But even if we were to accept all of that nonsense, the final totals still aren’t correct. As the report made clear, there were bad actors in the nursing homes who falsely attributed the deaths of some residents to other causes when they were clearly infected with the novel coronavirus. If the patient passed away from some other complication brought on by their weakened state and failing respiratory health, such as a heart attack or simultaneous case of the flu, the deaths were attributed to those other causes. Whether this was done to cover their own failures and lessen their exposure to potential lawsuits or to provide cover for the Governor doesn’t really matter. They were downplaying the lethality of the virus and throwing off the data needed to plan a response.
Those bad actors should be squarely in the firing line alongside Andrew Cuomo. The Worst Governor in America managed to wipe out a large swath of senior citizens in New York through his incompetent management of the pandemic and he was abetted by dishonest officials in the nursing homes. There needs to be accountability for all of this and the Attorney General needs to be doing more than just adding up numbers and issuing reports. These people need to be charged with something.