TIMELINE: Cuomo’s COVID-19 Nursing Home Death Scandal

Over 15,000 nursing home and adult-care facility residents died under the Cuomo Administration’s leadership––or should I say, lack thereof––during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Here’s what happened, and how the New York Governor attempt to cover it up.

March 25, 2020: The New York Department of Health issues a directive, stating: “No resident shall be denied re-admission or admission to the [nursing home] solely based on a confirmed or suspected diagnosis of COVID-19.”

April 3, 2020: Cuomo signs the 2020 state budget into law. The bill included a provision tucked deeply inside that granted nursing homes immunity from lawsuits arising out of COVID-19 deaths. The Guardian reports that in a now deleted social media post, The Greater New York Hospital Association, a lobbying arm for nursing homes and hospitals, bragged about the provision and referred to it as the “gold standard” of legal immunity.

April 9, 2020: A Brooklyn-based nursing home asked the Cuomo administration for permission to transfer its residents with suspected or diagnosed COVID-19 cases to the Javits Center, which had been turned into a federally-ran field hospital, or alternatively, transfer the patients to the USS Comfort docked in Manhattan. Both the Javits Center and USS Comfort remained nearly entirely vacant throughout the time they were open; however, the Cuomo administration denied the request.

April 17, 2020: The state releases data on COVID-19 nursing home deaths for the first time, breaking down the data by individual facilities.

April 20, 2020: Cuomo claims “he is not aware” of his own health department’s March 25 directive. New York Health Commissioner Howard Zucker capitulates to Cuomo and doubles-down, again claiming that “the necessary precautions will be taken” to protect the residents forcibly injected into the population of the virus’s most vulnerable.

April 23, 2020: Cuomo states that nursing homes “don’t have the right to object” to the state’s March 23 directive, and further adds that nursing homes who cannot properly isolate COVID-19-positive residents must transfer those residents to another facility despite the Javits Center and USS Comfort remaining nearly vacant. The directive is entirely devoid of any such requirements.

April 29, 2020: The New York Post reports that the state allowed staff in an upstate nursing home who tested positive for COVID-19 but were asymptomatic to continue to come into work.

May 5: The state updates its nursing home COVID-19 death count to include presumed cases in addition to confirmed cases, increasing the total at the time by 1,700.

May 10: Under intense pressure, Cuomo rescinds the nursing home directive with an executive order and replaces it with a policy that states that nursing homes cannot accept residents without a negative COVID-19 test.

Mid-May: The federal government begins requiring nursing homes to provide data on COVID-19 deaths that occurred in the facilities as well as residents who died in hospitals. The policy, however, did not require that retroactive data be made available, which likely artificially decreased the true total fatality rate reported.

May 20: Cuomo its March 25 directive was issued pursuant to following federal CDC guidance. Politifact has debunked this claim and deemed it “mostly false.” On or before this date, the state removed the March 25 directive from the Department of Health website.

May 20: The Department of Health removes the March 25 directive from its website.

May 22: The Associated Press reports that an astounding 4,500 COVID-19 patients were transferred from hospitals into nursing homes.

July 6: The state issues a report that attributes the high nursing home death toll to asymptomatic staff and visitors; not from the 4,500 COVID-19 positive patients injected into the elderly residents’ living quarters. The report reveals 6,300 residents were transferred out of hospitals––only 100 more than the 6,200 nursing home residents reported to have died from COVID-19.

July 24: Cuomo said downplays the state’s total COVID-19 death total and claims New York is 35th in the country in and repeatedly touts New York’s “low percentage” in comparison to other states.

Aug. 3: State legislatures press Zucker during a hearing about COVID-19 deaths in nursing home facilities. Zucker refused to provide the full tally of coronavirus deaths. In response, the Empire Center for Public Policy submitted a FOIL request seeking the nursing home coronavirus death data. Thereafter, the state rolled back the increased immunity provided to nursing home operators in the state’s 2020 budget.

Aug. 12: The Associated Press reported that New York’s true nursing home death total could be over 11,000. At the time, the state reported a mere 6,600 deaths.

Aug. 20: Cuomo dismisses concerns about a nursing home death undercount, saying during a radio interview, “If you die in the nursing home, it’s a nursing home death. If you die in the hospital, it’s called a hospital death.”

“If you die in the nursing home, it’s a nursing home death. If you die in the hospital, it’s called a hospital death.”

Gov. Andrew Cuomo, Aug. 20, 2020

Aug. 26: The U.S. Department of Justice requests data on New York nursing homes.

September: The Cuomo administration asks legislative leaders for more time to respond to their letter seeking data.

Sept. 3: Then-President Donald Trump attacks Cuomo for the state’s nursing home death count, citing the 11,000 number reported by the Associated Press the month before.

Sept. 18: The Empire Center files a lawsuit seeking the nursing home data after the state failed to comply with the Center’s August 3rd FOIL request.

Sep. 30: After facing increased scrutiny, Cuomo accuses his critics of “politicizing people’s deaths.”

Oct. 12: When questioned, Zucker again refused to articulate the total number of deaths and instead, reiterated that the state would release the information once “all the data is accurate.

Oct. 28: The DOJ announced that it is expanding its inquiry into New York because it is state is the only in the country not to include residents who had transferred to hospitals as part of its nursing home COVID-19 death totals.

Jan. 28: New York Attorney General Letitia James releases a report on nursing homes during the pandemic that estimates that the state is undercounting COVID-19 deaths among nursing home and long-term care facility residents by as much as 50%. That evening, Zucker releases a statement revealing the state’s nursing home death tally is 12,473 while at the same time reporting just 8,700 deaths on the Department of Health website.

Feb. 3: A state judge rules the state illegally withheld the information requested in the Empire Center’s FOIL request, handing the organization a victory in its September 18 lawsuit.

Feb 6: The state DOH website is finally updated to reflect nursing home deaths that occurred in hospitals, bringing the total deaths count to 13,163.

Feb. 10: In a closed door meeting, the Cuomo administration meets with Democratic lawmakers who later release a letter provided by the administration that contained answers to the questions legislators submitted to the administration back in August. The letter stated the total adult-care facility and nursing home COVID-19 death toll rose to 15,049 as of February 9.

February 11, 2021: During the February 10 closed door meeting, Cuomo’s Secretary, Melissa DeRosa, apologized for stonewalling Democratic legislators claimed “the DOJ probe” was the cause for delay in providing the information requested six months prior. She said the administration “froze” when it received the inquiry letter and that they feared that releasing the information would be “used against us.”

The administration “froze” when it received the inquiry letter and that they feared that releasing the information would be “used against us.”

Melissa DeRosa in an apology to Democratic lawmakers for concealing the COVID-19 death toll

February 12, 2021: DeRosa releases a statement defending her remarks, stating in part: “As I said on a call with legislators, we could not fulfill their request as quickly as anyone would have liked.”

“. . . [W]e could not fulfill their request as quickly as anyone would have liked.”

Melissa DeRosa doubling-down in defense of her February 11 statement

February 15, 2021: Cuomo directly addresses the scandal for the first time and admits that his administration created an information “void” by not releasing nursing home death data more quickly. Cuomo never actually apologized for the delay, nor did he apologize to the families of the 15,000+ who died.

February 16, 2021: Assembly members, including Ron Kim, a frequent critic of Cuomo’s handling of nursing homes during the pandemic, circulate a letter seeking to strip Cuomo of his emergency powers and accusing him of obstruction of justice. The Post publishes a story regarding the letter.

February 17, 2021: Cuomo then attacks Kim and the Post during a press conference over the Assembly letter and the Post’s story about the letter and the article breaking the news about DeRosa’s comments. According to Kim, Cuomo told him, “You will be destroyed.”

“You will be destroyed.”

Gov. Cuomo’s statement to Democratic Assembly member & Cuomo critic, Ron Kim

February 22, 2021: Democratic Committee members introduce a resolution to formally censure Cuomo over his handling of nursing homes and for allegedly covering up the true number of nursing home fatalities.

March 4, 2021: Reports surface revealing Cuomo’s aides edited the July report on nursing home deaths to remove the higher death toll included in the first draft. According to health officials, the administration made the changes to downplay the impact of the March 25 directive on nursing home deaths.

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