New York's new governor reveals 12,000 nursing home coronavirus deaths were hidden by Cuomo

"There's a lot of things that weren't happening and I'm going to make them happen," Kathy Hochul said on Wednesday

By Jon Skolnik
Published August 25, 2021 12:52PM (EDT)
New York Governor Kathy Hochul speaks to the media during her swearing in ceremony at the New York State Capitol in Albany, New York on August 24, 2021. - New York Governor Andrew Cuomo handed over the reins of the nation's fourth most populous state to Lieutenant Governor Kathy Hochul, a fellow Democrat who will become New York's first ever female governor. (ANGELA WEISS/AFP via Getty Images)
New York Governor Kathy Hochul speaks to the media during her swearing in ceremony at the New York State Capitol in Albany, New York on August 24, 2021. - New York Governor Andrew Cuomo handed over the reins of the nation's fourth most populous state to Lieutenant Governor Kathy Hochul, a fellow Democrat who will become New York's first ever female governor. (ANGELA WEISS/AFP via Getty Images)

Newly-appointed New York Gov. Kathy Hochul on Tuesday admitted that the state saw about 12,000 more COVID-10 deaths than were officially counted. 

"We're now releasing more data than had been released before publicly, so people know the nursing home deaths and the hospital deaths are consistent with what's being displayed by the CDC," Hochul said on a Wednesday MSNBC broadcast. "There's a lot of things that weren't happening and I'm going to make them happen. Transparency will be the hallmark of my administration."

The governor added that the state's forthcoming tally will reflect the previously uncounted deaths. 

Back in July, the Associated Press pointed out a concerning discrepancy between the death count released by disgraced former governor Andrew Cuomo's administration and figures published by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. At the time, the state's Department of Health had reported about 11,000 fewer deaths than the CDC's estimate. The inconsistency was noteworthy because the federal government's count is generally lower than most states due to a lag in real-time reporting and confirmation. 

Cuomo's death count was apparently reported through a state system that critics said was largely incomplete because it only included laboratory-confirmed COVID-19 deaths, WIVB noted. His official tally therefore excluded thousands of residents who died at home, hospice, prison, or were simply unable to be tested. 

On Tuesday, Hochul's office used this incomplete same figure, but with a proviso explaining its pitfalls. 

"There are presumed and confirmed deaths. People should know both," Hochul said during a Wednesday morning appearance on NPR. "Also, as of yesterday, we're using CDC numbers, which will be consistent. And so there's no opportunity for us to mask those numbers, nor do I want to mask those numbers. The public deserves a clear, honest picture of what's happening. And that's whether it's good or bad, they need to know the truth. And that's how we restore confidence." 

The announcement comes amid ongoing federal and state investigations into Cuomo's alleged attempts to conceal the state's full scope of nursing home deaths. Last year, Cuomo reportedly instructed his staff to compile data that undercounted nursing home deaths by several thousand, according to New York Attorney General Letitia James. In April, The New York Times reported that Cuomo's administration repeatedly overruled the guidance of his own health officials over a five-month period, wherein the former governor's most senior aides prevented health officials from releasing the true data. 

Back in March of last year, when COVID numbers were skyrocketing in the Empire State, Cuomo made a serious error in judgment by allowing nursing home patients hospitalized by COVID-19 to be sent back to their homes. The move resulted in a wildfire of new cases and subsequent deaths, which presumably led Cuomo to conceal the full picture of hospice fatalities. 

Cuomo is also currently under investigation for alleged sexual misconduct toward several of his former female staffers. Earlier this month, James released a state report detailing eleven different claims of abuse stemming from 170 interviews from various witnesses.

"The independent investigation found that governor Cuomo harassed multiple women, many of whom were young women, by engaging in unwanted groping, kisses, hugging, and by making inappropriate comments," James said, adding that her report painted "a deeply disturbing, yet clear picture."

Cuomo has vehemently denied any misconduct, acknowledging that, at most, his comments may have been "misinterpreted as an unwanted flirtation."


Jon Skolnik

Jon Skolnik is a staff writer at Salon. His work has appeared in Current Affairs, The Baffler, AlterNet, and The New York Daily News.

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