New York governor Andrew Cuomo’s health department has confirmed members of his Covid-19 taskforce altered a state Health Department report to omit the full number of nursing home patients killed by coronavirus, but insisted the changes were made because of concerns about the data’s accuracy.
The Wall Street Journal and the New York Times, citing documents and sources, reported that aides including secretary to the governor Melissa DeRosa pushed state health officials to edit the July report so only residents who died inside long-term care facilities, and not those who became ill there and later died at a hospital, were counted.
It is the latest blow for Mr Cuomo, who has also been besieged by accusations that he made lewd comments and inappropriately touched two former aides and a woman he met at a wedding.
He apologised on Wednesday for acting “in a way that made people feel uncomfortable” but rejected calls for his resignation and said he would fully co-operate with the state attorney general’s investigation into the sexual harassment allegations.
Federal investigators are scrutinising his administration’s handling of nursing home data.
After Thursday night’s report, some state legislators — including fellow Democrats like Assembly members Zohran Kwame Mamdani and Yuh-Line Niou — called for his impeachment.
“15,000 nursing home residents died. 15,000 of our loved ones died. And Cuomo hid the numbers. Impeach,” tweeted Assembly member Ron Kim, who said Mr Cuomo bullied him over the nursing home response.
The July nursing home report was released to rebut criticism of Mr Cuomo over a March 25 directive that barred nursing homes from rejecting recovering coronavirus patients being discharged from hospitals.
Some nursing homes complained at the time that the policy could help spread the virus. The report concluded it played no role in spreading infection.
The state’s analysis was based partly on what officials acknowledged at the time was an imprecise statistic. The report said 6,432 people had died in the state’s nursing homes.
State officials acknowledged that the true number was higher because of the exclusion of patients who died in hospitals, but they declined at the time to give any estimate of that larger number of deaths, saying the numbers still needed to be verified.
The Times and Journal reported that the original drafts of the report had included that number, then more than 9,200 deaths, until Mr Cuomo’s aides said it should be taken out.
State officials insisted on Thursday that the edits were made because of concerns about accuracy, not to protect Mr Cuomo’s reputation.
Scientists, health care professionals and elected officials criticised the report at the time for flawed methodology and selective stats that sidestepped the impact of the directive.
It comes after one of the women who accused Mr Cuomo of sexual harassment said she was motivated to come forward after seeing his name mentioned as a potential cabinet nominee for President Joe Biden.
Lindsey Boylan, 36, worked for Mr Cuomo’s team from March 2015 to October 2018 and recounted her story of sexual harassment in the series of Twitter posts.
She elaborated on her accusations in a February 24 Medium post in which she said Mr Cuomo once suggested a game of strip poker and on another occasion kissed her without her consent.
Charlotte Bennett, 25, a former low-level aide, said he quizzed her about her sex life and told her he would consider dating “anyone above the age of 22”.
Anna Ruch, 33, said Mr Cuomo put his hands on her face and asked if he could kiss her after meeting her at a wedding in September 2019.