'It's a gut punch.' Audit by NY comptroller says DOH under Cuomo failed to account for over 4,000 COVID deaths
An audit by State Comptroller Tom DiNapoli says the New York Department of Health was not transparent in its reporting of coronavirus deaths at nursing homes.
The comptroller found the Health Department under former Gov. Andrew Cuomo's administration failed to account for more than 4,000 lives lost.
"It's a gut punch," says Vivian Zayas, whose 78-year-old mother died of COVID after undergoing rehab at a West Islip Nursing Home.
Since that happened, Zayas has been fighting for transparency amid allegations that the New York's nursing home death numbers were inaccurate.
She says they have been "kicked to the curb" on many occasions, despite continuing requests for an investigation.
DiNapoli's report says the DOH undercounted COVID nursing home deaths, sometimes deliberately, by as much as 50%.
The audit alleges that from April 2020 until February 2021, the department failed to account for approximately 4,100 lives lost due to the coronavirus.
DiNapoli claims the DOH skewed data at times to meet Cuomo's narrative that New York was leading the country in the battle against the virus.
"This bombshell basically proves that we have no way to know how many of our loved ones perished and it's imperative that New York take a step," Zayas says. "We have to know how many of our loves ones perished."
The comptroller's findings confirm a report released by New York Attorney General Letitia James in January 2021.
The report also identified early issues in infection control and other COVID mitigation efforts.
The health department issued a 13-page response, which says in part, "The department...disagrees with the draft report's conflation of transparency concerns that have been raised regarding the prior administration's public disclosures of COVID-19 information.
A spokesperson for Cuomo says that the audit is not news because the attorney general's report already came out with similar information. He also questioned the timing of the audit and inferred that politics could be involved.