The Department of Justice demanded detailed data from hundreds of private nursing home facilities in New York on Oct. 28 as part of an expanding investigation into whether the state is undercounting nursing home deaths from the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) virus, commonly known as the coronavirus.
New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo has faced criticism for months about the states official tally of 6,722 nursing home deaths, which is off by thousands because the state is one of only a handful that count only people who die on nursing home property. The counting method enables Cuomo to claim that New York has a lower percentage of nursing home deaths than other states.
The governor has repeatedly denied access to the relevant data to lawmakers and the media. Cuomo signed an executive order on March 25 sending thousands of recovering CCP virus patients into nursing homes at the peak of the pandemic.
The governor’s spokesman said the DOJ’s latest request is a “sham” and a “scummy abuse of power” due to its timing right before the election.
New York appears to be undercounting nursing home deaths by the thousands, according to an analysis by The Associated Press.
“In this hyper-political environment … everybody wants to point fingers,” Cuomo said in an appearance on CBS’s “This Morning” earlier this month while promoting his new book on his handling of the crisis. “New York, actually, we’re number 46 out of 50 in terms of percentage of deaths in nursing homes—46 out of 50. So, yes, people died in nursing homes. Yes, we’ve learned a lot of lessons, but 46 out of 50, it’s not a predominantly New York problem.”
The Department of Justice’s civil rights division sent a letter to the state demanding a breakdown of hospital death data, which the New York Department of Health has been collecting since at least April but has never made public. The letters to the private nursing homes, in the meantime, are a vast expansion of a similar request in April that was aimed as several dozen publicly-run facilities.
Asked about the delay on Wednesday, the state health department repeated what it has been saying for months: that it needs more time to doublecheck the figures for accuracy.
Separately, the Justice Department also sent a letter to Democratic Gov. Phil Murphy of New Jersey questioning his state’s nursing home death count while announcing that it is launching a formal investigation of the state’s veterans homes after receiving what it described as incomplete answers to an earlier request for data.
The Murphy administration wouldn’t comment on the substance of the investigation. It called the new inquiries politically motivated.
Spokesman Michael Zhadanovsky said: “The fact that this request from the Department of Justice was announced a week before Election Day speaks volumes about the nature of the review.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report.