An investigation into the criminal culpability of Andrew Cuomo’s handling of nursing homes death reporting in the early days of the coronavirus pandemic will see the former governor avoid charges, according to his attorney.
Cuomo is represented by Elkan Abramowitz, a criminal defense attorney, as the investigation began while Cuomo was still in office.
“I was contacted today by the head of the Elder Care Unit from the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office who informed me they have closed its investigation involving the Executive Chamber and nursing homes,” a statement made by Abramowitz reads. “I was told that after a thorough investigation – as we have said all along – there was no evidence to suggest that any laws were broken.”
The investigation began in early 2021 after the New York state Attorney General released a report that claimed the administration had undercounted nursing home deaths by an estimated 50%.
Questions were raised from the onset, however, over Cuomo’s use of nursing homes at the height of the pandemic. At the beginning of the pandemic, New York hospitals became overrun with Covid patients. Under pressure from New York’s powerful hospital lobby, Cuomo looked for ways to ease the burden that hospitals faced.
His administration landed on a risky and politically-polarizing decision to transfer patients to nursing homes. On March 25, 2020, he issued a directive that nursing homes could not deny patients based upon their Covid status.
Days later, Cuomo would add a provision making it difficult for patients to sue hospitals or nursing homes. Cuomo’s administration made the decision to send Covid-positive patients to nursing homes to alleviate the stress placed on hospitals, essentially, according to some, prioritizing hospitals over nursing homes at the height of a crisis.
There was reportedly reason to believe that the policy would fail as, at the earliest stages of the pandemic, it quickly became clear that the elderly were at increased risk of serious illness and death from COVID-19.
The policy was eventually reversed in May 2020, but by that time the damage was already done.
Cuomo’s decision to allow hospitals to send Covid patients to nursing homes may have been a mistake, but what he and his administration did in the aftermath was, according to prosecutors, far worse.
The administration steadfastly stonewalled inquiries into nursing home death data following the policy, with the data that they did release being either altered or suggested to be intentionally misleading.
When initially reporting nursing home deaths from Covid, the state of New York only included deaths that physically occurred in a nursing home, not instances of individuals who had gotten Covid in a nursing home and later died in a hospital.
The administration also under-reported the number of patients sent from hospitals to nursing homes by 40%, according to an Associated Press report. A later report would emerge based on video footage of one of Cuomo’s aides claiming to have hidden data on nursing home deaths.