Possible Federal Investigation of New York Governor over Misreporting of Nursing-Home Deaths
Earlier this month, we wrote about New York Governor Andrew Cuomo’s defense against claims of a cover-up regarding COVID deaths at nursing homes, following the New York Attorney General’s January 28, 2021 report. Since then, the criticism of Gov. Cuomo’s handling of the nursing homes during the pandemic has only increased. New York Assemblyman Ron Kim has alleged that Gov. Cuomo called him at home and threatened to “destroy” his political career unless he helped mitigate the damage from the scandal. Assemblyman Kim has since written an opinion piece in Newsweek stating that Gov. Cuomo should be impeached over the nursing home scandal. The opinion piece is available here.
In addition, U.S. Attorney General nominee Merrick Garland testified Monday, February 22, 2021 that the Department of Justice would pursue evidence of fraud in a federal investigation he may soon supervise regarding Gov. Cuomo’s handling of nursing home deaths during the pandemic. He pledged that such an investigation would avoid conflicts of interest.
It has also been reported that the FBI and the U.S. Attorney’s office for the Eastern District of New York are investigating the Cuomo administration and its nursing home policies. The preliminary investigation is looking into whether state officials manipulated numbers regarding nursing home deaths, which according to the New York Attorney General’s Report were actually nearly double than what was initially reported by the administration.
As criticism mounts, Gov. Cuomo announced that nursing home visitations may resume on February 26, 2021 in accordance with CMS and CDC guidelines. The New York Department of Health (DOH) recommended that visitors take a rapid test before entry into a facility. The DOH will provide rapid tests to nursing homes to help facilitate testing of visitors prior to their entry. However, visitation continues to depend on the facility being free of COVID-positive cases for 14 days. More information regarding the announcement is available here.
Despite Gov. Cuomo’s announcements, Assemblyman Kim questions why New York provided immunity to nursing homes during the pandemic, claiming that corporate immunity was linked to $1.5M in political contributions to Gov. Cuomo by the Greater New York Hospital Association (CNYHA). Assemblyman Kim is requesting any investigation.
We previously have written about the immunity granted to nursing homes and health care facilities. We also reported that in August 2020 legislation was passed that rolled back legal immunity to hospitals and nursing homes.
We will continue to report on this issue as further developments may lead to increased litigation for nursing home and health care facilities related to the care and treatment of patients during the pandemic.