New York governor Andrew Cuomo rejected calls for an independent investigation into deaths of coronavirus patients in state nursing homes, saying such an investigation would be “political.”
The state has seen over 32,000 deaths from coronavirus, with at least 6,500 of those deaths among residents of nursing homes and long-term care facilities. However, if a nursing home resident dies of coronavirus after having been transferred to a hospital, the fatality is not listed in state records as a “nursing home” death. This practice has led to speculation that the death count among nursing home residents is higher than reported.
“I wouldn’t do an investigation [into nursing home deaths] whether or not it’s political,” Cuomo said at a press conference. “I think you’d have to be blind to realize it’s not political.”
The governor dismissed allegations that the state had not adequately protected nursing home residents from coronavirus.
“Just look at where it comes from and look at the sources and look at their political affiliations…and look at what publications raise it and what media outward networks raise it,” Cuomo said.
Critics have pointed to a March executive order, signed by Cuomo and supported by state Health Commissioner Howard Zucker, mandating that nursing homes readmit coronavirus patients even if those patients were not fully recovered, which may have driven coronavirus outbreaks in the facilities. The New York Department of Health released its own report concluding that outbreaks in nursing homes were driven primarily by visitors and caregivers who had themselves already been infected.
“This is a conflict of interest for the health department to investigate its own poor decisions,” State Assemblyman Ron Kim, who represents Queens, said in early July. “For them to say that the decision of sending COVID-19 patients from hospitals into nursing did not contribute to increasing infections is ludicrous.”
State Democratic lawmakers have opened an investigation into the deaths.
“[Cuomo] has spent a lot of time pointing fingers at other people rather than taking ownership of his own mistakes and really thoughtfully addressing the problem,” State Senator Alessandra Biaggi, a Democrat representing parts of the Bronx and Westchester, said in June.