New York Democrat Governor Andrew Cuomo admitted on Monday that his administration should have supplied more information to the public and done so faster amid a growing scandal over how his administration handled nursing homes during the coronavirus pandemic.
“In his first press conference since reports surfaced that his office underreported or withheld critical information on nursing home deaths during the coronavirus pandemic, Cuomo said all relevant information was ‘fully, publicly and accurately reported,'” Fox News reported. “When asked if he felt the need to apologize, the New York governor said his team’s failure to publicly address concerns created a ‘void’ that allowed the spread of ‘conspiracy theories.'”
At one point in the press conference, Cuomo said that there was “nothing to investigate” in regards to a so-called cover-up that Secretary to the Governor Melissa DeRosa allegedly confessed to during a talk with Democrat lawmakers in the state last week.
One of the most controversial comments that Cuomo made during the press conference was that “all the deaths in the nursing homes and in the hospitals were always fully publicly and accurately reported.”
“The numbers were the numbers, always,” Cuomo continued. “People did request information beyond the place of death, not just where they how many in a nursing home, not just how many in a hospital. They did request different categorizations beyond those counts, how many people died, who were in a nursing home, but then went to a hospital? How many people died, who were in a hospital, but then went back to a nursing home? How do you count presumed COVID deaths? Everyone was busy. Everybody was here every day. We’re in the midst of managing a pandemic. There was a delay in providing the press and the public all that additional information. There was a delay.”
Cuomo’s comments come after New York Attorney General Letitia James said last month that the number of deaths in nursing homes was undercounted by as much as 50 percent.
Below are some of the highlights from the press conference:
“So are you really saying that this is sort of the creation of a toxic political environment that’s existed for several years in this country?” a reporter asked. “And in this state?”
“Look, is the environment toxic politically? Yes. Was this happening last year with this toxic political environment? Yes. And do I think that’s part of the conspiracy theories that filled the void? Yes. And, look, I understand politics,” Cuomo responded. “I was critical of President Trump, I also worked with President Trump. I get how strong the feelings are on both sides. But when you’re talking about loved ones dying in nursing homes, when you come up with conspiracy theories or this disinformation, then the worst thing you can say to somebody who lost a loved one is maybe it didn’t have to be, maybe there was a government issue.”
“Now, we created the void. I agree to that. Or, and or we didn’t constantly fight back every rumor or every piece of disinformation,” he continued. “Which in this environment is a full time job. And that’s what I want to do today. The people who lost the loved one. All these theories, March 25 memo did this. No, it didn’t. The state numbers were wrong. No, they weren’t. Well, that’s how COVID got into a nursing home. No, it isn’t. 613 nursing homes, 365 people, went back 98% of them have COVID already.”
“And then the void in information that we created, started misinformation, disinformation, conspiracy theories and now people have to hear that and they don’t know what is the truth,” Cuomo said. “The truth is everybody did everything they could. The truth is you had the best medical professionals and advice on the globe. The truth is, it was in the middle of a terrible pandemic. The truth is COVID attacks senior citizens. The truth is, with all we know, people still die in nursing homes. Today. People still die every day.”
“With testing the staff twice a week, there’s no visitation, people still die,” Cuomo continued. “You would have to hermetically seal a nursing home, they actually tried this in France, where the staff lived in the nursing home. Anybody can bring it in. A delivery man brings it in. The heating repairman brings it in. The food service brings it in. Staff person goes home, has, meets with their family, someone in the family has it, staff member comes back, the staff member brings it in. Even when you’re testing twice a week, twice a week, you’ll get people who have it and you’ll miss them in the twice a week. That is the reality.”
“Do you apologize for anything?” a reporter asked Cuomo.
“Apologize? Look, I have said repeatedly, we made a mistake in creating the void,” Cuomo said. “We made a mistake in creating the void. When we didn’t provide information, it allowed press, people, cynics, politicians to fill the void. When you don’t correct disinformation, you will allow it to continue. And we created the void. Not because people weren’t working hard, Mike, because you know how hard people were working. And well, you should have prioritized providing more information. Yes, yes. In retrospect, we should have prioritized providing more information.”
“I get the operational demand, I don’t like to second guess my team. They were all working 24 hours a day. You know, remember where this was?” Cuomo continued. “You’re in the middle of hell during this time. But we no excuses, no excuses. We should not have created the void. We should have done a better job in providing information, we should have done a better job of knocking down the disinformation. You’d never knocked down all these conspiracy theories, the political conspiracy theories because they generate 10 a day. But we should have done a better job of providing as much information as we could as quickly as we could. And we should have done a better job on that. Yes, and no excuses. I accept responsibility for that. I am in charge. I take responsibility. We should have provided more information faster.”
“We’re watching the TV every night and watching Italy collapse and people die because they can’t get into a hospital,” Cuomo said. “We’re watching China with a hospital capacity issue where they were building 1000s of new hospital beds. That’s what was going on. That’s why the CDC and that’s why CMS made those decisions. And at the time, CDC, CMS, there were White House task forces. There were daily briefings. Everyone was focused on this issue. This was not a little issue.”
“All the best minds were looking at it,” he said. “Fact, of the 613 nursing homes, three, we have 613 nursing homes in the state, 365 received a person from a hospital. Of the 365 that received a person from this March 25 guidance, which was then superseded in May, 98% of those 365 already had COVID in their facility. COVID did not get into the nursing homes, by people coming from hospitals. COVID got into the nursing homes by staff walking into the nursing home.”
“What did we learn from this entire situation? What are we still learning? There are hospitals that perform well,” Cuomo said. “And there are hospitals that performed less well. We still see hospitals performing less well. When you look at those vaccination numbers, hospitals with the same demographics of workforce, in the same region, with different vaccination rates of their staff, that’s indicia of performance of those hospitals. There are nursing homes that performed well. And we’re not nursing homes that that did not perform as well. We have to learn from it. And we have to correct it before we have another surge and another pandemic. And by the way, we are going to have another pandemic. As I sit here, I would plan on it. And yes, this was never seen before. And yes, hospitals had to deal with something they never had seen before. And yes, nursing homes had to deal with something they had never seen before. But they will see it again.”
“And now we have to learn from it. before it happens, again,” he continued. “Our focus, I believe, is going to be on the for profit nursing homes, hospitals, low performing hospitals, but also in the for profit nursing homes. I have long believed that there’s a tension in a for profit nursing home, because those institutions are trying to make money. If you’re trying to make profit, it’s too easy to sacrifice patient care, everything becomes one or the other. Do you want to hire more staff? Or do you want to make more profit? Do you want to buy more PPE and stockpile more PPE? Or do you want to make more profit? Do you want to buy new equipment, new beds, new sheets, new furniture, invest in the facility or do you want to make more profit? That tension is a problem. And that has to be resolved legislatively because I don’t want to leave it to these folks.”
“Real quick on on the nursing home data, was there not the capacity in DOH to fulfill both the DOJ request and the legislature’s request at the same time?” a reporter asked.
“They focused on the DOJ request. You know, Steve, they were dealing with everything at the time,” Cuomo responded. “Remember, when you wake up in the morning, job one for the past year has been dealing with the crisis of the moment. Right. Dealing with whatever the issue is today’s variants of interest. Today, it’s sorting out the vaccination system. Every day it has been something and that was given priority. In retrospect, should we have given more priority to fulfilling information requests? In my opinion? Yes, yes. And I think that’s what created the void. But do I understand the pressure that everybody was under? Yes, I understand that also. It’s not like people were in the south of France, right? It’s not like people were on vacation.”
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