Cuomo Aides Spent Months Hiding Nursing Home Death Toll

After the first wave of coronavirus infections and Covid-19 deaths peaked in April 2020, health officials began trying to figure out how many nursing home residents had died, according to three people with knowledge of the process who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss its details.

The officials surveyed nursing homes late last April — a process overseen by Mr. Cuomo’s aides — and gathered data on residents who died in the facilities, as well as those who had died after being transferred to hospitals, the people said.

Amid criticism about Mr. Cuomo’s policies, the Health Department began preparing a report on the issue in the spring of 2020, under the close watch of the governor’s top advisers.

“We are getting anxious over here on this report,” wrote Ms. DeRosa in an email to health officials and top Cuomo aides on June 18, which was reviewed by The Times. She laid out what the strongest points that should be made in the report were “from my perspective”; each had to do with knocking down the idea that readmitting infected people to nursing homes was problematic.

“Needs to be able to stand up to scrutiny and definitively tell the story,” Ms. DeRosa added.

The final version of the report, which The Times has reported was rewritten several times by senior advisers to Mr. Cuomo and published in early July, emphasized that admissions from hospitals “were not a driver of nursing home infections or fatalities.” Instead, the report contained the lower death count and cited staff as the most likely source of infections.

But another version of the study, aimed at the scientific press and drafted at the same time by nearly a dozen health officials, took a more nuanced view.

That draft, reviewed by The Times, reached the same conclusions but included a lengthy paragraph describing the limitations of the analysis, such as a lack of information about staff-resident interactions. It put the number of residents with Covid-19 killed in the pandemic at 9,739 through the end of May, far higher than what the administration was saying publicly at the time.