For months, New Yorkers have been demanding transparency from Gov. Andrew Cuomo about the number of deaths related to his order forcing nursing homes to admit COVID-19 patients in the spring of 2020.
This week, their quest for information – and closure after the deaths of so many of their loved ones – continued without success.
The New York Post reports the New York Health Department wrote a letter Wednesday asking for at least another two months to comply with a freedom of information act request about COVID-19 nursing home deaths.
Bill Hammond of the watchdog group Empire Center for Public Policy slammed the Cuomo administration for making “a mockery of the public’s right to know.”
“The state is stonewalling — plain and simple,” he told the Post.
The Empire Center submitted its request for information five months ago on Aug. 3, 2020, according to the report.
Officially, New York reported 8,110 deaths at nursing homes due to the coronavirus. However, the state tally only includes people who died at a facility. Nursing home residents who were transferred to hospitals and died there are not included in the total.
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“This would be like the New York City Police Department reporting homicides on weekdays and not weekends,” Hammond said.
In the letter Wednesday, the state Health Department said it needs more time “because the records potentially responsive to your request are currently being reviewed for applicable exemptions, legal privileges and responsiveness.”
“We estimate that this Office will complete its process by March 22, 2021. The Department will notify you in writing when/if the responsive materials are available for release or if the time needed to complete your request extends beyond the above date,” the letter states.
The Post accused New York leaders of double standards, noting that the state health department “has fined nursing homes for being tardy in submitting daily reports that include data on coronavirus cases, leaving it open to charges of failing to practice what it preaches.”
The Epoch Times reports New York nursing home deaths to the coronavirus spiked at the end of 2020, averaging 250 per week.
Overall, New York has the highest COVID-19 death numbers and the second highest death rate (deaths per 100,000) in the United States – a status it has maintained for months, according to coronavirus statistics updated daily at NBC News.
Cuomo’s nursing home order is widely considered to be disastrous because it placed COVID-19 patients with the elderly and people with disabilities, those most vulnerable and likely to die from the virus. Cuomo later reversed the order, but he continually has refused to take responsibility for it.
Criticism of the Democrat governor has come from both sides of the political aisle as well as multiple news outlets and watchdog groups.
The Times Union, the Associated Press and others believe the current nursing home death total is a “significant undercount.” ProPublica, a left-leaning investigative news publication, also criticized the Democrat governor for releasing a book praising himself for his handling of the virus – despite his failure to be transparent about the nursing home deaths.
Janice Dean, a senior meteorologist at Fox News, has been a leading critic of Cuomo after both her in-laws died from the coronavirus in March in assisted living and nursing home facilities in New York.
“Here’s one hard truth Cuomo has still yet to tell: how many nursing home residents have died of COVID-19. 9 months into the pandemic, and three months after his health commissioner testified that he was hard at work counting NH deaths, Cuomo has not announced the grim total,” Dean wrote on Twitter in October.
She believes Cuomo’s order led to her in-laws’ deaths. And she has been calling for an investigation.
Four other Democrat governors also ordered nursing homes to take coronavirus patients in 2020 before reversing their orders: New Jersey, California, Pennsylvania and Michigan. These states are among the top ten for the highest coronavirus death numbers in the country.