It appears that former New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) was understating COVID-19 deaths in his state, and the new governor is correcting the record by acknowledging nearly 12,000 more deaths than previously reported.
Gov. Kathy Hochul (D) on Tuesday released new numbers showing nearly 55,400 people have died of COVID-19 in New York based on death certificate data submitted to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. On his last day in office, Cuomo had only reported 43,400 deaths.
According to the Associated Press, the discrepancy can be attributed to the way Cuomo's administration was counting COVID-19 deaths.
"The count used by Cuomo in his news media briefings only included laboratory-confirmed COVID-19 deaths reported through a state system that collects data from hospitals, nursing homes and adult care facilities," the AP reported. "That meant the tally excluded people who died at home, hospice, in state prisons or at state-run homes for people living with disabilities. It also excluded people who likely died of COVID-19 but never got a positive test to confirm the diagnosis."
As one of her first acts as governor, Hochul corrected the record. The new governor went on a media tour Wednesday, giving interviews explaining how her administration will be more transparent than her predecessor's.
"We're now releasing more data than had been released before publicly, so people know the nursing home deaths and the hospital deaths are consistent with what's being displayed by the CDC," Hochul said Wednesday on MSNBC. "There's a lot of things that weren't happening and I'm going to make them happen. Transparency will be the hallmark of my administration."
Hochul's office still reports the lower number as confirmed deaths, but does so with an explanation about why it's an incomplete count.
"There are presumed and confirmed deaths. People should know both," Hochul told NPR on Wednesday. "Also, as of yesterday, we're using CDC numbers, which will be consistent. And so there's no opportunity for us to mask those numbers, nor do I want to mask those numbers. The public deserves a clear, honest picture of what's happening. And that's whether it's good or bad, they need to know the truth. And that's how we restore confidence."
Before he left office, Cuomo was under investigation by federal prosecutors for his management of data around COVID-19 deaths in nursing homes. The governor was accused by critics of covering up the true number of deaths in his state to shield himself from criticism over an executive order that placed COVID-positive patients in nursing homes to prevent hospitals from becoming overwhelmed.
Under Cuomo's administration, New York underreported the true number of nursing home deaths by excluding patients who had been transferred to hospitals before dying.
The New York Assembly Judiciary Committee also investigated the matter as part of its impeachment probe against Cuomo. The committee is expected to eventually release a public report on its findings.