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Justice Department expands inquiry into NY nursing home COVID-19 death count

Justice Department expands inquiry into NY nursing home COVID-19 death count
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The Department of Justice (DOJ) announced Wednesday it was expanding an investigation into whether New York is undercounting the number of nursing home residents who are dying from COVID-19.

The inquiry comes in part because New York, unlike other states, only counts coronavirus-related deaths of residents who have died on nursing home properties, not ones who were taken to the hospital, The Associated Press reported Wednesday.

The DOJ has asked for data from hundreds of nursing home facilities, a request Gov. Andrew CuomoAndrew CuomoCardinal Dolan hails Supreme Court decision on churches, COVID-19 Cuomo blames new conservative majority for high court's COVID-19 decision Vaccine skepticism emerges as early test for Biden MORE’s (D) administration has refused. The DOJ sent a similar letter requesting nursing home data from New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy (D).

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The current number of people reported to have died in long-term care facilities in New York is 6,722 but a separate federal count since May that included those who died in hospitals was 65 percent higher than the state count, the AP reported. 

Cuomo has received praise for flattening the curve in a state that has seen the most coronavirus deaths in the U.S. but has still faced criticism for his handling of nursing homes during the pandemic.

A spokesperson for Cuomo, Rich Azzopardi, called the DOJ’s request less than a week before the presidential election a “scummy abuse of power,” the AP reported.

In its letter to the state, the DOJ requested that New York hand over data it has been collecting on hospital deaths and also broadened the number of care facilities it's interested in from a few dozen to more than 600, the AP reported.