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Report: Cuomo advisers altered report on COVID-19 nursing home deaths



Screenshot 2020 04 15 12.43.10

Top advisers to embattled New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) pushed state health officials to omit data showing that more nursing home residents had died of COVID-19 than the administration had acknowledged from a public report in July, people with knowledge of the report’s production told The Wall Street Journal.

The report, which analyzed the factors that contributed to the spread of the coronavirus in nursing homes, focused only on residents who died inside long-term care facilities, excluding those who had died in hospitals after becoming sick in nursing homes. The report said 6,432 nursing home residents had died, a major undercount of the death toll, the sources told The Journal.

Additionally, one of the sources told the newspaper that the initial version of the report said nearly 10,000 nursing home residents had died in New York by July last year.

Cuomo’s office did not immediately respond to this reporter’s request for comment.

The July report resulted from a New York State Department of Health (DOH) study into the impacts of a March 25 directive from the DOH which required nursing homes to not refuse readmitting residents or admitting new residents from hospitals merely because of a COVID-19 diagnosis. Critics and experts have argued that the directive played a huge role in causing the spike in COVID-related deaths in nursing homes during the early stages of the pandemic.

State officials now say, according to the newspaper, that over 15,000 residents of nursing homes and other long-term care facilities were confirmed or presumed to have died from COVID-19 since March of last year—including both those who died in long-term care facilities and those who later died in hospitals. That number is roughly 50% higher than earlier official death tolls.

The initial version of the report submitted to Cuomo’s team for review included both data on deaths of nursing home residents in hospitals and deaths of residents inside nursing homes, people familiar with the report’s production told the newspaper.

However, members of Cuomo’s COVID-19 task force—including Secretary to the Governor Melissa DeRosa and state Health Commissioner Howard Zucker—requested that the report downplay the role of the March directive. Though DOH officials ultimately agreed to remove the data, they resisted the requests from Cuomo’s team to alter the report, some of the source told The Journal.

The published report, according to the newspaper, concluded that the directive was “not a significant factor in nursing home fatalities.” Rather, the report blamed the virus’s spread on staff who brought the virus with them to work, saying that nursing homes were already rife with the virus by the time of the March 25 directive.

“Covid task force officials did not request that the report conclude the March 25 order played no role,” Beth Garvey, a special counsel and senior adviser to Cuomo, said in a statement. “Task force members, knowing the report needed to withstand rigorous public scrutiny were very cautious to not overstate the statistical analysis presented in the report. Overall, ensuring public confidence in the conclusion was the ultimate goal of DOH and the Covid task force in issuing the report.”

These new revelations from The Journal come as the governor is embroiled in three scandals: for his administration allegedly withholding nursing home death data, for Cuomo allegedly sexually harassing two former staffers, and for him allegedly threatening an assemblyman over the phone.

RELATED: De Blasio ‘sickened’ by Cuomo sexual harassment claims

Many Republicans and Democrats are calling either for Cuomo to resign or be impeached, though the governor has stated that he does not plan to resign. On Tuesday, however, state lawmakers arrived at an agreement to strip him of his pandemic-related emergency powers.

RELATED: Report: Gov. Cuomo to lose Pandemic Emergency Powers

Back in January, New York Attorney General Letitia James (D) published a report in January showing that Cuomo’s administration might have undercounted nursing home deaths “by as much as 50%,” and blamed the March directive.

RELATED: NY AG releases report showing COVID-19 nursing home deaths ‘may have been undercounted by as much as 50%’

The July report, according to The Journal, is of interest in a federal investigation into the Cuomo administration’s handling of COVID-19 in nursing homes.

You can follow Douglas Braff on Twitter @Douglas_P_Braff.

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American Citizens Released in Prisoner Exchange with Iran Return Home



Joe Biden

WASHINGTON, D.C. – In a significant diplomatic development, five American citizens who were detained in Iran have been successfully released and are on their way back to the United States.

The five Americans, along with two family members, arrived safely in Doha, Qatar on Monday after departing from Iran. This release comes as part of a prisoner exchange agreement between the United States and Iran, accompanied by the return of $6 billion in frozen funds to Iran.

A White House official commented on this, stating, “The president is making five families whole again.” The $6 billion in frozen funds, a substantial part of this exchange, arrived in Qatar on Sunday night, leading to Iran’s decision to release the American detainees. Qatar has played a crucial role as an intermediary for negotiations between the U.S. and Iran.

President Biden, in a statement on Monday, expressed his satisfaction with the successful exchange and revealed that two of the American citizens involved had requested that their identities remain undisclosed. He also used the opportunity to call upon the Iranian regime to provide a full account of the disappearance of Bob Levinson, a former FBI agent who went missing in Iran.

“The Levinson family deserves answers,” President Biden stated. He further announced sanctions against former Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and the Iranian Ministry of Intelligence under the Levinson Act for their involvement in wrongful detentions.

Secretary of State Tony Blinken held a press conference later on Monday to address the release and answer questions from reporters. Blinken expressed his relief at the return of the American citizens and emphasized the U.S. government’s dedication to punishing countries that unlawfully imprison U.S. citizens.

He clarified that the prisoner swap was negotiated separately from discussions regarding the Iran nuclear deal, cautioning against interpreting the exchange as an indicator of progress in the nuclear negotiations, though there are many skeptics raising concern across social media platforms.

The Biden administration has underscored that Qatar will retain control of the $6 billion that is being unfrozen and will allocate it to Iran exclusively for humanitarian purposes. However, some Iran watchdogs have voiced concerns, claiming that this move is insufficient.

According to reports from Fox News, Benham Taleblu, a senior fellow at the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies, stated, “The Islamic Republic must be beaming now. Despite rhetoric from Washington about supporting the Iranian people, in practice with the waiver and random payment, the Biden administration is now effectively helping Tehran signal that no matter what the regime does, it will not be met with meaningful pressure.”

Furthermore President Donald J Trump took to Truth social Monday commenting on the deal current President Joe Biden made stating, “This absolutely ridiculous 6 Billion Dollar Hostage Deal with Iran has set a terrible PRECEDENT for the future. Buckel up, you are going to see some terrible things start to happen. The 3 years ago highly respected USA has become a laughingstock all over the WORLD. MAKE AMERICA GREAT AGAIN. VOTE TRUMP!!!”

The release of these American citizens and the accompanying fund transfer mark a questionable development in U.S.-Iran relations. The path forward remains complex and uncertain as both nations grapple with long-standing issues and ongoing negotiations surrounding the Iran nuclear deal.

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