Cuomo admits "mistake" in withholding nursing home deaths
New York Governor Andrew Cuomo said in a press conference on Monday that he made a "mistake" in not providing information about nursing home deaths from COVID-19 in a timely fashion. But Cuomo continued to defend his and his administration's handling of the crisis, saying he would trust his top health adviser, Dr. Howard Zucker, with "my mother's care."
Cuomo has long faced criticism for his administration's handling of the release of data related to deaths from COVID-19 in nursing homes, which intensified last week when one of his top aides admitted that they were concerned the data was "going to be used against us."
In recent weeks, the state has been forced to acknowledge the nursing home resident death toll is nearly 15,000. The state had previously reported a death toll of 8,500 — a number that excluded residents who died after being taken to hospitals.
When asked if he would apologize for his handling of the nursing home data, Cuomo on Monday acknowledged a delay in the reporting of some results.
"The void we created by not providing information was filled by skepticism and cynicism and conspiracy theories which furthered confusion... you don't provide the information, something will provide the information," Cuomo said. "Most of all, the void we created allowed disinformation."
Although Cuomo has been criticized by both Republican and Democratic lawmakers — some of whom have called for him to end his emergency powers or even be prosecuted — he insisted on Monday that members of the New York Legislature and "top legislative staff" were told to prioritize a federal investigation.
State lawmakers and the Department of Justice both asked for information on nursing home deaths around the same time.
Top Cuomo aid Melissa DeRosa told Democratic lawmakers last week that the administration "froze" because "we were in a position where we weren't sure if what we were going to give to the Department of Justice or what we give to you guys and what we start saying was going to be used against us, and we weren't sure if there was going to be an investigation."
DeRosa's comments were first reported by The New York Post.
In a move that has long been questioned, the state Health Department on March 25 ordered nursing home patients with COVID-19 be returned to nursing homes rather than kept in hospitals. The order was later reversed.
Cuomo has defended the move as being in line with federal guidelines, adding that, at the time, the top priority was not letting hospitals be overrun. Cuomo insisted on Monday that there has been "much distortion" around the March 25 memo, and said patients were only received at nursing homes if a given home verified they had the capability to accept them, as required by New York law.
Of the 613 nursing homes in New York, Cuomo said 365 received a patient from a hospital. Of the 365, Cuomo said 98% already had COVID-19 in their facilities.
"COVID did not get into the nursing homes from people coming from hospitals," Cuomo said Monday. "COVID got into nursing homes by staff walking into nursing homes."
Meanwhile, Cuomo announced on Monday that the New York City Subway system will now only be shut down from 2 .am. to 4 a.m. starting on February 22. At the height of the pandemic in March, Cuomo announced that New York City's famed 24-hour subway system would be shutting down for deep cleaning from 1 a.m. to 5 a.m.
As the city has started easing COVID restrictions, many wondered how much the city would be able to reopen without 24-hour subway service. Further, there has been a surge in crime as the trains have been sparsely populated, including an alleged stabbing spree that left two dead and two others wounded on the A train over a 14-hour period on Friday.
Cuomo also said the first case of the South African variant of COVID-19 has been detected in a New York hospital.
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