As New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo claimed savior status for his response to COVID-19, the bureaucracy he controls lowballed the number of New Yorkers who died from the disease, according to critics responding to new data.
Although New York has posted an official death count of about 43,000 people, per the state Department of Health, federal numbers put that figure about 11,000 higher to approximately 54,000, according to WNBC-TV.
“Unfortunately New York state has chosen to politicize epidemiological information, so I feel like they’ve lost all credibility over what’s the best estimate of COVID deaths in New York State,” City University of New York professor Dennis Nash said in response.
“The overall undercounting of COVID deaths is the nursing home scandal all over again,” said Bill Hammond, senior fellow at the Empire Center for Public Policy, according to the New York Post.
Hammond referred to a scandal that erupted after state Attorney General Letitia James issued a report that said Cuomo’s bureaucrats undercounted COVID-19 nursing home resident deaths by about 50 percent. (Cuomo has denied those accusations.)
That came after a firestorm over a Cuomo edict that forced nursing homes to accept patients infected with the coronavirus, a decision critics have said was responsible for the deaths of thousands of elderly New Yorkers.
New York publicizing lower COVID death count than fed figures https://t.co/Wvelmu4tuJ
— Janice Dean (@JaniceDean) July 14, 2021
“After what’s happened, Cuomo doesn’t deserve the benefit of the doubt. You have to suspect the motives,” Hammond told the Post. “We knew they were violating the law on nursing homes. That was a political decision on their part to save face.”
The state defended its tactics.
“[The Department of Health] and the regulators of state-run facilities have gone to great lengths to ensure this data is accurate and reliable, and that process will continue for quite some time following this pandemic to give a complete picture once this data is finalized,” spokesperson Jeffrey Hammond said in email to The Associated Press, according to WNBC.
One federal official, meanwhile, said the gap between the real numbers and New York’s numbers was odd.
“It’s a little strange,” said Bob Anderson, chief of the Mortality Statistics Branch at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s National Center for Health Statistics, according to WNBC.
“They’re providing us with the death certificate information, so they have it. I don’t know why they wouldn’t use those numbers.”
Jiggering the numbers erodes trust, said Georges Benjamin, a physician and executive director at the American Public Health Association.
“We need to make sure we get it right and people understand what the numbers are. And how we’re using them so they can’t be misused by people who have a motive to misuse them,” he said, per WNBC.
“The overall undercounting of COVID deaths is the nursing home scandal all over again,” said Bill Hammond, senior fellow at the Empire Center Center for Public Policy.”
Worst Governor in America? https://t.co/yYz2CNfvhK
— Elise Stefanik (@EliseStefanik) July 14, 2021
Cuomo’s bureaucrats narrowly defined COVID-19 deaths to only include people who died while at hospitals, nursing homes and adult-care facilities. Anyone who died at home, a hospice, in prison or at state-run homes for people living with disabilities was ignored in the count.
Deaths in which no coronavirus test was available were also ignored, even though New York City estimates that would include about 5,000 people who died in the pandemic during the days when testing was not easily available.
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