New York health chief doubles down on Cuomo’s claim that COVID was taken into nursing homes by STAFF
Testifying before state lawmakers Thursday an embattled Dr Zucker, who is facing calls to resign, said: ‘The virus, despite our collective best efforts to prevent it, was inadvertently brought into the nursing homes by dedicated staff at a time when we did not know enough about the science.
‘Tragic. Troubling. But true.’
Cuomo is under increasing pressure over his handling of COVID-19 deaths in the state’s nursing homes. He signed a March order that allowed nursing homes to accept COVID-19 patients back to their facilities. That order was rescinded in May.
The governor and his office were then accused of then intentionally misreporting the number of coronavirus deaths linked to the homes by not listing patients who were transferred to hospital and died there.
Cuomo has said: ‘COVID did not get into the nursing homes by people coming from hospitals. COVID got into nursing homes by staff walking into the nursing home when we didn’t even know we had COVID.’
Zucker said Thursday: ‘This is what’s happening: people are not listening to the science. The fact of the matter is, first of all, it was in the facilities. It came in from the community. It was already there.
‘Yes there were deaths. Too many. It is troubling to me that we keep going back to the issue, where all the data has shown this is not what brought infection into the nursing homes.
‘If it’s in the community, it’s going to end up in the facility.’
At least 15,000 people living in long-term care facilities have died of COVID-19, nearly double the number Cuomo had initially disclosed.
New York health chief Howard Zucker has doubled down on Andrew Cuomo’s claims that COVID-19 was taken into nursing homes by staff
Cuomo is under increasing pressure over COVID deaths in NY’s nursing homes. He signed a March order that allowed nursing homes to accept COVID-19 patients back to their facilities; that order was rescinded in May. At least 15,000 people living in long-term care facilities have died of COVID-19. That is nearly double the number Cuomo had initially disclosed
The Cuomo administration for months dramatically underreported the statewide number of COVID-19 deaths among long-term care residents.
That move, and the administration’s months-long refusal to provide the full tally, has drawn criticism that Cuomo was trying to minimize the extent of the pandemic among the state’s most vulnerable.
Melissa DeRosa, top aide to Cuomo, admitted to lawmakers that the administration delayed releasing data to the legislature about the deaths because officials ‘froze’ over fears the information was ‘going to be used against us’ by the DOJ.
Cuomo says his office was always honest about the figures but that it came down to differences in categorization. The FBI and US Attorney’s Office have begun investigations into Cuomo’s handling of the deaths and any potential cover-up.
He has already appeared to blame the nursing homes themselves for the deadly toll they’ve witnessed. ‘They were only supposed to take patients if they could,’ Cuomo said of the nursing homes.
In a prepared statement read out at the three hours at a state budget hearing Thursday Zucker said: ‘I was asked to provide the numbers of deaths by facility, by location of death, by whether confirmed or presumed.
‘To the best of the [Health] Department’s ability, I have done so,’ he insisted.
Zucker added: ‘If some wish to find fault with the process, I ask them to remember that we continue to battle this pandemic.
‘As the governor said last week, he said that there was a void that was created. And that information should have been released sooner, and he regrets that and I share that feeling.
‘I wish I could say that I had all the answers back then. I didn’t. We didn’t. Not the scientists, the public health experts, the journalists, the policymakers, those on the frontlines.
‘Ironically the year was 2020. With 20/20 foresight, we would have built stockpiles, implemented more precautionary measures, and revved up manufacturing. Instead, we have all learned together.’
Melissa DeRosa, pictured, top aide to Cuomo, admitted to lawmakers awmakers that the administration delayed releasing data to the legislature about the deaths because officials ‘froze’ over fears the information was ‘going to be used against us’ by the DOJ
Research by the Empire Center thinktank found the nursing home policy may have led to the deaths of 1,000 vulnerable people.
But Zucker argued that 98 per cent of all nursing homes in the state had the virus before any patient discharged from a hospital arrived there.
Probed on the delayed release of death data, Zucker said: ‘There was a pandemic, which we continue to fight today. And there were many issues on my desk.’
‘Admission policies were not a significant factor in nursing home fatalities,’ Health Commissioner Howard Zucker said in July.
‘The March 25 guidance was not the driving force in nursing home deaths.’
Assemblyman Kevin Cahill said he ‘found it unusual that we had to wait as long as we did to get answers to basic and often statistical questions’.
The nursing home controversy has spawned some bipartisan criticism of Cuomo among New York lawmakers, and Democratic State Assemblyman Ron Kim of Queens is leading a call for Cuomo’s impeachment.
Kim claims that he was threatened by Cuomo over the scandal.
‘Governor Cuomo called me directly on Thursday to threaten my career if I did not cover up for Melissa [DeRosa] and what she said,’ Kim told CNN on Wednesday.
‘He tried to pressure me to issue a statement, and it was a very traumatizing experience.’
Days later, Cuomo admonished Kim as chronically unethical during a press briefing.
His spokesperson, who was listening to the February 11 call between the two, called Kim a habitual liar, and said the governor was just trying to defend himself against a false accusation of a cover up.
New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio on Thursday called for an independent investigation into sexual misconduct accusations against Cuomo made by a former aide to the governor who is now a candidate for Manhattan borough president.
Lindsey Boylan, who first made the accusations on Twitter in December, wrote a detailed essay published on the web platform Medium on Wednesday.
In it she said that the governor had made several ‘inappropriate gestures’ towards her while she worked for the state government from 2015 to 2018, ranging from sending her a rose on Valentine’s Day to kissing her on the mouth.