Top aides to Gov. Andrew Cuomo are accused of rewriting a report put together by top state health officials to hide the true number of nursing home deaths due to COVID-19, according to the New York Times and Wall Street Journal.
Both reported that top aides, including Secretary to the Governor Melissa DeRosa, Linda Lacewell, and Jim Malatras were all involved.
Malatras now serves as SUNY Chancellor.
The reporting adds that by the time June 2020 came around- there were more than 9,000 deaths in nursing homes- and that information was not public. It went further to note that that’s when the Governor’s most-senior aides altered the report to take it out.
Department of Health Spokesman Gary Holmes issued the following statement:
“This report, which establishes that the March 25 advisory was not a driver of nursing home deaths, was a collaborative process between DOH and the COVID task force. The report’s purpose was to ensure the public had a clear non-political evaluation for how COVID entered nursing homes at the height of the pandemic. All data sets reviewed came to a common conclusion – that spread from staff was likely the primary driver that introduced COVID into these nursing homes. While early versions of the report included out of facility deaths, the COVID task force was not satisfied that the data had been verified against hospital data and so the final report used only data for in facility deaths, which was disclosed in the report. While the out of facility deaths were held aside for verification, the conclusions were supported by both data sets. DOH was comfortable with the final report and believes fully in its conclusion that the primary driver that introduced COVID into the nursing homes was spread brought in by staff. Even Bill Hammond of the conservative think tank Empire Center found that the March 25 advisory was not a primary driver of COVID in nursing homes. The decision was made to initially release the report without the out of facility data and to later update the report to include the out of facility deaths. This was done in February and as Dr Zucker had testified to the legislature, the conclusions remained the same as in July.”
Gov. Cuomo’s advisor and senior counsel Beth Garvey said data was omitted after it was determined that it couldn’t be verified.
“The out of facility data was omitted after DOH could not confirm it had been adequately verified – this did not change the conclusion of the report, which was and is that the March 25 order was ‘not a driver of nursing home infections or fatalities’,” she wrote in a statement. “COVID Task Force officials did not request that the report conclude the March 25 order played no role; in fact Task Force Members, knowing the report needed to withstand rigorous public scrutiny were very cautious to not overstate the statistical analysis presented in the report. Overall, ensuring public confidence in the conclusion was the ultimate goal of DOH and the COVID Task Force in issuing the report.”
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