In his first public comments then a scathing attorney general New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo administration credited deaths in nursing homes, the governor claimed on Friday that criticism of him was a “political attack” that began with the Trump administration.
“It was bad,” Cuomo said as the federal government blamed New York and other states for the nursing home’s COVID-19 deaths.
“Where this begins is frankly a political attack by the former federal administration and the HHS … Michael Caputo,” the Democratic governor continued.
Caputo, Deputy Secretary General of the Department of Health and Human Services under President Trump, fired immediately in a statement: “Early experts in the administration of health and human services identified Cuomo’s malicious executive order as a major cause of thousands of COVID nursing homes in New York. He’s right, I called him immediately … Cuomo is personally responsible for thousands of unnecessary deaths in nursing homes. and he must be held accountable. “
The report this week from Justice Minister Letitia James, also a Democrat, found that deaths in coronavirus nursing homes were down by about 50 percent.
Cuomo has been protected for his policies during the first months of a pandemic directly in a nursing home in the Empire State to accept patients who had or were suspected of having COVID-19. He repealed the policy in May.
Cuomo insisted that the state follow federal guidelines.
“Everyone did the best they could,” he said. “If you think it was a mistake, talk to the federal government,” he said. “It’s not about pointing fingers or blaming, this became a political football.”
“The commissioner said no non-profit nursing home was forced to take anyone,” he continued. “If they took someone they could not take care of, a Covid-positive person, they broke the law.”
Cuomo’s office hours had previously confirmed that thousands more nursing homes died of COVID-19 than the state’s official spokesman had previously acknowledged.
The surprising development, after months of the state refusing to reveal its true numbers, showed that at least 12,743 long-term residents died of the virus on January 19, far greater than the official number of 8,505 that day, cementing New York’s tolls as one of the highest in the country.
As of January 27, the health department reported 5,957 confirmed deaths due to coronavirus in nursing homes and a further 2,783 reported deaths. The state only counted those who died of the virus in nursing homes, not those in nursing homes who got the virus and later died in a hospital.
Cuomo insisted that the figures did not change with the new bill, as the total number of deaths across the country was not incorrect.
“Whether a person died in a hospital or died in a nursing home, people died. People died,” Cuomo said. “… The same people die today. 96 percent of the people who died are elderly with comorbidities, which happens to be the population living in nursing homes. It continues today, even with all the tests we do. If you look at the state of New York has “We have a lower proportion of deaths in nursing homes than other states. One third of all deaths in this nation are in nursing homes.”
Cuomo said he understood the “instinct” to blame the government for finding relief from the pain and suffering. “I think everyone did the best they could – I think the federal government, the CDC, I think they gave the best guidance they could.” The governor has critically criticized Trump and the Centers for Disease Control during his administration for their handling of the pandemic.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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