Cuomo’s health commissioner branded a ‘liar’ over NY’s COVID nursing home controversy: Report

Cuomo remains under fire over handling of coronavirus pandemic in New York

Fox News contributor Mike Huckabee discusses Andrew Cuomo's political woes on 'The Faulkner Focus.'

New York State Health Commissioner Howard Zucker has reportedly incurred the ire of Democrats after it was revealed that the state had underreported coronavirus-related deaths at senior living facilities.

Democrats dubbed Zucker a "liar" and a "puppet" for Gov. Andrew Cuomo during a meeting held via video conference on Monday, sources told The New York Post on Tuesday.

The harsh words were triggered by a report released by New York Attorney General Letitia James at the end of last month that revealed total nursing home deaths in the state were higher than previously expected – undercounted by as much as 55%. Those figures were attributed to a policy whereby the state counted deaths that occurred on nursing home grounds and not those who later died in a hospital.

Zucker rebutted that deaths were "undercounted," characterizing the use of that term as "factually wrong." He said the Department of Health had always made it clear that it was counting on-premises fatalities.

The Department of Health revealed shortly after James’ report was released that an additional 3,829 residents died after being transferred to hospitals, which is about 40% more deaths than had previously been counted.

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However, the state then revealed that at least 12,743 long-term care residents died of the virus as of Jan. 19, far greater than the official tally of 8,505 on that day, cementing New York’s toll as one of the highest in the nation.

"You don’t have to be a rocket scientist to figure it out – they were lying – after the attorney general released their report," an unnamed assembly member told The Post.

There were also calls made to the publication for Zucker to resign.

A spokesperson for Zucker’s office did not return Fox News’ request for comment.

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James’ report and the newly released state data triggered renewed criticism over a policy Cuomo’s administration implemented early on in the pandemic regarding elderly, vulnerable New Yorkers.

On March 25, Cuomo issued a directive that required nursing homes to accept COVID-positive patients released from hospitals. The idea was anticipatory, looking at a scenario where hospitals would get overwhelmed and be forced to discharge patients to go back to nursing homes.

The directive was reversed in May, when Cuomo said hospitals could not send patients back to nursing homes unless they had tested negative.

A controversial study issued in July found that a big factor in the senior care contagion was infection introduced by staff and visitors, since cases at the facilities were already spreading before infected patients were received.

The state has yet to release details over how the survey reached its conclusions.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Brittany De Lea Fox News