New York’s health department under the Cuomo administration underestimated nursing home deaths by about 4,100, audit finds

the Auditreleased Tuesday by State Comptroller Thomas P. DiNapoli, shows nursing home deaths were underreported by 4,071 during a 10-month period of the pandemic, from April 2020 to February 2021 The audit shows that a total of 13,147 deaths occurred during this period, but only 9,076 were reported.

The audit also found that the health department failed to report more than 50% of care home deaths from April 15 to May 2, 2020.

“The public has been deceived by those at the highest levels of state government by twisting and suppressing the facts when New Yorkers deserve the truth,” DiNapoli said in a statement. Press release the announcement of the results of the audit. “The pandemic is not over, and I hope the current administration will make changes to improve accountability and protect lives.”

State auditors pointed to the level of control over the data exercised by Cuomo, his staff members in the Executive Chamber and members of the New York State Interagency Task Force, including the former state health commissioner, Howard Zucker.

The audit cites a November 2021 Assembly impeachment inquiry report, sworn testimony before the New York Attorney General, and various news reports that collectively painted “a picture of an executive who micromanaged with a top-down decision-making on every issue, regardless of size, and tight control of information.”

Using details from the Assembly’s report and sworn testimony, the audit also says Health Ministry officials were concerned that the inter-agency task force consisted primarily of non-medical experts, “whose decisions were not not always taken on the basis of scientific or medical advice – but which the Ministry of Health experts nevertheless often had to rely on.”

Cuomo spokesman Rich Azzopardi responded to the audit, accusing the state comptroller of playing politics.

“As the number of off-premises deaths was reported last January, it’s not news, but what’s special is the comptroller’s release of this audit now – but no one has ever accused him. to be above politics,” Azzopardi told CNN. in a report.

Cuomo, who was widely praised in Democratic circles for his leadership at the start of the pandemic, has since come under intense scrutiny over his administration’s guidelines regarding Covid-19 and nursing homes.
One of Cuomo’s top aides admitted in February 2021 that the administration had delayed releasing data on Covid-19 deaths in nursing homes, wary of a preliminary investigation by the US Department of Justice.
The New York Times and the wall street journal also reported in March 2021 that some of Cuomo’s top aides allegedly rewrote a July nursing home report from state health officials to hide the higher number of Covid-19 deaths among residents of the state nursing homes.

Audit recommends better data collection and cooperation

The audit also criticized the DOH for not routinely collectively analyzing the multiple sources of data available to it to more effectively respond to an infectious disease outbreak.

DiNapoli called on the DOH “to provide families who have lost loved ones with answers as to the true number of nursing home residents who have died. These families are still grieving and they deserve nothing less.”

Cuomo admits error but defends delaying release of data on Covid-19 deaths in long-term care facilities

The audit recommends that the health department, in addition to expanding the use of infection control data and improving the quality of data reported, strengthen its coordination with local authorities and collect additional data through d other sources, such as the CDC.

It also recommends that the governor’s office assess and document its internal control environment at the health department and take steps to ensure cooperation with local authorities, state surveillance investigations, and external reporting.

New York Governor Kathy Hochul’s office referred CNN to the DOH’s response to the audit.

The DOH’s acting executive deputy commissioner disagreed with the report in a 13-page response, which was also included in the audit.

“As the draft report acknowledges and the New York State Assembly concluded during its investigation into the state’s public disclosures, the extent of the health data that has been made public by the previous administration was determined by this executive chamber, not department staff, and any data issued by the department has been accurately described,” Kristin M. Proud said in the response.

Justice Department says it won't investigate Covid-19 nursing home deaths in several states

“Whatever criticisms may now be leveled at the previous administration regarding issues of transparency or the particular categories of information that have been publicly disclosed, these were ultimately the responsibility of the Executive House of the Administration. previous and not Department staff.”

The audit also said a “persistent underinvestment” in public health over the past decade may have hampered the DOH’s ability to prepare for and respond to infectious disease outbreaks in nursing homes.

“Department staff, by all accounts, have worked tirelessly throughout the pandemic,” the audit said. “However, better data and information systems and an established system of proactive infection control review for facilities before the pandemic would have provided them with more accurate and comprehensive information early on to help them in their work and would have helped institutions be better prepared.”

CNN’s Mark Morales contributed to this report.

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