White House press secretary Jen Psaki said Friday the Justice Department will decide if an investigation is warranted of Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s role in COVID-19 nursing home deaths.
Cuomo’s administration likely undercounted by about 50 percent the grim toll in nursing homes, according to a Thursday report from New York Attorney General Letitia James.
The death toll was driven by a March order from the state Health Department that required nursing homes to accept coronavirus-positive patients.
A journalist asked Psaki at a White House briefing, “Would President Biden support a federal investigation into what happened and Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s role?”
Psaki said, “I’ve seen those reports. I would say any investigation, I would point to the Department of Justice.”
Pressed by the journalist on whether the White House believes further review is warranted, Psaki said: “Again, any investigation would be led by the Department of Justice. We’re in a new age where they’re independent and they will determine what path they take moving forward.”
The Justice Department did not immediately reply to The Post’s request for comment.
The state attorney general reviewed data from 62 nursing homes and found that 1,914 residents died from COVID-19 — 56 percent more than the 1,229 reported by the state.
The data suggest New York’s nursing-home death toll could be more than 13,000. The official state tally is 8,711 and doesn’t count patients transported to a hospital before their deaths.
The report from James would mean almost one-third of New York’s more than 42,000 coronavirus deaths were linked to nursing homes, undercutting Cuomo’s claim of effectively managing the crisis.
New York still has the highest US death toll from the respiratory bug, which disproportionately claims the lives of the elderly. The second-highest number of deaths is in California, with fewer than 40,000 fatalities, though California has more than twice the number of COVID-19 diagnoses.
The Justice Department under former President Donald Trump was reviewing the situation at nursing homes in New York. In October, The Post reported that the Justice Department was demanding more information from the state after an initial review of data indicated a significant undercount.
Federal sources told The Post that an initial federal review of two dozen state-run New York nursing homes found that about 400 residents died from COVID-19, one-third more than the approximately 300 deaths disclosed to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.