Gov. Andrew Cuomo warned Friday that a Manhattan nursing home with at least 98 reported deaths could face criminal prosecution if it covered up the number of residents killed by the coronavirus.
Cuomo, who noted that he’s a former state attorney general, said, “If they misrepresented, then you have a criminal fraud case.”
“They submit those numbers under penalty of perjury. You violate, you commit fraud. That is a criminal offense. Period,” Cuomo said during his daily coronavirus briefing in Albany.
“So they can be prosecuted criminally for fraud on any of those numbers.”
Cuomo said the situation at the Isabella Geriatric Center in Washington Heights was being reviewed as part of a broad investigation by Attorney General Letitia James and the state Department of Health.
State Health Commissioner Howard Zucker called the deaths at the nursing home an “evolving situation.”
Their remarks came in response to a report that 46 residents of the Isabella Geriatric Center in Washington Heights have died from the coronavirus.
Another 52 deaths are suspected to be the result of the killer respiratory disease, NY1 said.
The state Health Department’s latest official count of coronavirus-related nursing home deaths says that only 13 Isabella residents have died there.
Earlier Friday, Mayor Bill de Blasio called the NY1 report “horrifying.”
“This is a staggering toll we’re hearing about now and I’m shocked,” de Blasio said.
De Blasio also said that he knew “a lot of people who work there” and wanted to “provide more help in any way we can.”
“I think the one thing we now know about nursing homes is the status quo can’t stand, to say the least,” he added.
A since-removed message on the Isabella’s web site said that in addition to the deaths it reported to the state, another 19 residents had died in hospitals, according to NY1.
That message also said that another 37 deaths in the facility at one at a hospital were suspected to have been caused by COVID-19, NY1 said.
Another message posted Thursday said that “disturbing” numbers about COVID-19 deaths there “will be announced over the next few days.”
“As you know, Isabella has been following state and federal guidelines for infection control, which so far have helped contain the virus,” COO Loyola Princivil-Barnett wrote.
“Unfortunately, nursing homes in New York City have not been given access to widespread and consistent inhouse testing to quickly diagnose our residents and staff.”
“Sadly, this has hampered our ability to further limit loss of life by swiftly separating anyone with the virus,” she added.