New York Gov. Kathy Hochul added more than 12,000 deaths to the state's coronavirus death count Tuesday following allegations that her predecessor, Andrew Cuomo, had intentionally downplayed those numbers.
"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 told MSNBC's "Morning Joe" on Wednesday of the change, which brings the total number of coronavirus deaths in the state to more than 55,000.
On Monday, his final day in office, Cuomo put the number of total deaths in the state at just over 43,000. At Hochul's direction, the numbers were revised upward to bring them into alignment with the number of deaths the state has been reporting to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. It also brings New York in line with the reporting practices of several other states, including California, New Jersey and Florida.
The numbers the Cuomo administration had been using collected "confirmed daily death data as reported by hospitals, nursing homes and adult care facilities only," according to an update on the governor's website. The new tally includes those who died in any location, including at home, in hospice and other settings.
"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," she said. "It's not hard to do. You just get the information out there."
A spokesperson for Cuomo issued a statement in the former governor's defense later Wednesday.
"In August 2020, when testing became widely available, DOH (the state Dept. of Health) issued a health order mandating that any presumed COVID death be tested to ensure accuracy in numbers," Rich Azzopardi said. "As such, the State reported daily and clearly labeled confirmed COVID deaths. At the same time, the CDC requested 'presumed' COVID deaths, which are not lab confirmed. New York always reported these numbers and they were always publicly available."
Cuomo resignedfollowing a scathing report by the state attorney general that alleged he had sexually harassed 11 women and fostered a toxic work environment in Albany, although he denied any wrongdoing.
The state Assembly Judiciary Committee has been investigating those allegations as well as findings from Attorney General Letitia James that allege Cuomo had intentionally undercounted the number of coronavirus-related deaths from nursing homes by as much as 50 percent by failing to include residents who died in hospitals. The nursing home numbers are also being investigated by the FBI and the Brooklyn U.S. attorney's office.
Cuomo also denied wrongdoing in counting the Covid-19 deaths, and his state health commissioner, Howard Zucker, defended the numbers at the time.
"The word 'undercount' implies there are more total fatalities than have been reported; this is factually wrong," Zucker said then, adding that his agency "has consistently made clear that our numbers are reported based on the place of death."
The Judiciary Committee is also investigating whether Cuomo misused state resources to write his book "American Crisis: Leadership Lessons From the Covid-19 Pandemic" and is expected to issue a report with its findings in the coming weeks. Cuomo, who snared a $5.1 million advance for the book, maintains he did nothing wrong.