Governor Andrew Cuomo accused critics of New York's handling of nursing home deaths during the COVID-19 pandemic of politicizing the deaths of peoples' loved ones on Wednesday, calling it both mean and unfair to do so.
"Having someone who lost a loved one, saying to them, well, this was a government mess up, this was unnecessary, your father could be alive, your mother could be alive, your grandmother could be alive, that's just untrue," Cuomo said in a conference call with reporters. "And frankly, it's mean."
He added, "Ignorance doesn't help grieving people."
New York's nursing home policies have come under scrutiny during the coronavirus pandemic, including a since-partially rescinded order that required nursing homes to take in COVID-19-positive patients.
The state has instead pointed to asymptomatic staff and guests earlier in the year unknowingly spreading the virus.
At least 6,300 residents of nursing homes have died during the pandemic, but because the state does not include residents who died of COVID-19 in hospitals, the death toll in those facilities is likely much higher.
The Empire Center, a conservative-leaning think tank, has filed a lawsuit to access public records that could show nursing home fatalities in full.
The report that blamed asymptomatic carriers of the virus, too, has faced scrutiny from both Democratic and Republican lawmakers who have asked for the raw data of how the report was compiled.
Early in the pandemic, state officials sought to rapidly expand hospital capacity, fearing the system would become overwhelmed with cases. But ultimately, the state did not transfer COVID-19-positive patients to nursing homes, Cuomo said in the call on Wednesday.
"It just never happened that we needed a nursing home to take a COVID positive person," he said.