Hochul adds 12,000 deaths to Covid tally, departing from Cuomo methods

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New York Gov. Kathy Hochul speaks to reporters after a ceremonial swearing-in ceremony at the state Capitol on Tuesday. | Hans Pennink/AP Photo

08/25/2021 12:44 PM EDT

Updated 08/25/2021 02:19 PM EDT


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Gov. Kathy Hochul, in one of her first acts as the new leader of New York, overhauled how the state releases Covid-19 death data to ensure that it is more consistent with federal reporting standards — an issue that dogged former Gov. Andrew Cuomo administration and sparked allegations of a coverup.

The Hochul administration’s first Covid-19 update released Tuesday recognized an additional 12,000 Covid deaths that had been previously excluded from the state’s official tally. It showed both the deaths that health care facilities report through the state’s Health Electronic Response Data System — a total of 43,415 — as well as those reported to and compiled by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention — a total of 55,395.

It’s a marked departure from the Cuomo administration’s focus on the state data system, which accounts only for death data as reported by hospitals, nursing homes and adult care facilities — not those who died at home or in other settings. Cuomo reported a total of 43,404 Covid deaths in his administration’s final update on Monday.

The new governor, in a series of interviews on Wednesday, said the decision to use the CDC numbers comes as part of her administration’s efforts to enhance transparency.

“There's no opportunity for us to mask those numbers, nor would I want to mask those numbers,” she said in an interview with NPR’s Morning Edition. “The public deserves a clear honest picture of what's happening. Whether it's good or bad, they need to know the truth, and that's how we restore confidence.”

Hochul further took a swipe at the Cuomo administration’s handling of the Covid data, telling MSNBC’s Morning Joe “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 and address them.”

Scrutiny of the Cuomo administration’s Covid-19 death data intensified earlier this year after a report from Attorney General Tish James suggested the official tally of nursing home residents who died from the virus may be off by as much as 50 percent.

Health Commissioner Howard Zucker took issue with language included in the AG’s report. He argued that the Department of Health “was always clear that the data on its website pertains to in-facility fatalities and does not include deaths outside of a facility” — information which had repeatedly been requested by state lawmakers, health care advocates and others.

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