Cuomo defends blocking release of true NY nursing home death toll, blames Trump DOJ

Cuomo aides downplayed COVID-19 death data: Report

FOX News national correspondent Bryan Llenas joins ‘Special Report’ with the details

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo pushed back after a New York Times report said his administration conducted a months-long effort to downplay the number of nursing home patients in the state who died from coronavirus.

Senior Cuomo aides, the report said, purposely sought to prevent New York state health officials, including Commissioner Howard Zucker, from releasing the true death toll. According to the Times, officials had been compiling the report since April 2020, and an email said top aides were “anxious” about it and wanted to downplay the perceived impact of Cuomo’s March 25, 2020, order requiring nursing homes to take in residents who had tested positive.

Answering questions from reporters on Thursday, Cuomo said he and his administration were never trying to downplay numbers, but were taking their time providing statistics to make sure they were accurate as they faced a “political” investigation.

“This was all politics and all a political football that then morphed into an investigation, which made all the lawyers very careful about what the information they put out was,” Cuomo said.

Cuomo blamed former President Donald Trump and his administration for using the pandemic against Democratic governors like him for political purposes, and said the Justice Department’s investigation of New York nursing home deaths was a political probe.

“Attorney General Barr was a political operative of the president,” Cuomo said.

The governor also said the administration did not know what numbers to report because different states counted nursing home deaths differently.

“Who do you attribute that death to? Do you attribute it to a nursing home or do you attribute it to a hospital?” he asked. “How about if you were in a nursing home and got sick and then were sent to a hospital and you died in the hospital? Who do you attribute that death to?”

Cuomo’s office has faced criticism for initially only counting those who died in the nursing home facilities, omitting nursing home residents who died after being taken to hospitals.

The New York Attorney General’s Office reported in January that it found Cuomo’s administration had initially underreported COVID-19 deaths in nursing homes by as much as 50%.

On Thursday, Cuomo maintained that when it came to the most important statistic, his administration was always forthcoming.

“[T]he only number that mattered was the total number of deaths,” he said.

The governor also continued to point fingers in multiple directions regarding the deaths themselves.

“COVID came here before anybody knew it was here. Fact,” he said. “It was here for months before anyone knew it was here. Fact. The federal government failed to diagnose the fact that it was here. Fact. The staff brought COVID into nursing homes unknowingly. Fact.”

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Cuomo’s critics maintain that his nursing home directive contributed to the death toll, but he has insisted that this was not the case. Instead, he has repeatedly insisted that nursing home staff members contracted the virus from asymptomatic people and then unwittingly spread it to residents.

“Staff got infected, they brought it into the nursing homes. That’s what happened in nursing homes and that’s what happened in New York,” Cuomo said. “Then it became a political football, the federal government saying the Democratic governors are to blame, not the feds.”

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