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Lawmakers react to COVID-19 death toll discrepancy

Jessica Cain
Andrea Stewart-Cousins says Hochul's announcement is a step toward transparency

There are shock waves across New York state as Gov. Kathy Hochul began releasing new numbers showing the state death toll from COVID-19 is about 12,000 people higher than previously released.

Hochul said the new COVID-19 death toll numbers of about 55,400 people is in line with the death certificate data provided by the state to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Her predecessor, Gov. Andrew Cuomo, gave briefings that included only laboratory-confirmed COVID-19 deaths from hospitals, nursing homes, and adult care facilities. That didn’t account for people who died at home, in hospice, in prisons, or at state-run homes for people with disabilities.

Speaking at the New York State Fair near Syracuse Wednesday, Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins said Hochul’s announcement is a step in the right direction to create a more transparent Albany.

"I think getting out of the gate and saying, 'By the way, there was a, sadly, an undercount of 12,000,' is very much part of what she intends to do as governor," said Stewart-Cousins.

Sen. Rachel May (D-Syracuse), who was one of the leaders of the legislature’s hearings on the effect of COVID-19 on nursing homes, is taking her response a step further, calling on State Health Commissioner Howard Zucker to resign.

"Honestly, the Commissioner of Health came and gave us misinformation,” said May. “Whether he was misinformed himself or was deliberately misinforming us, either way, it was unacceptable."

Hochul said going forward, her administration will be releasing state COVID-19 death toll numbers that are consistent with the numbers released by the CDC.

Jessica Cain is a freelance reporter for WRVO, covering issues around central New York. Most recently, Jessica was a package producer at Fox News in New York City, where she worked on major news events, including the 2016 presidential conventions and election. Prior to that, she worked as a reporter and anchor for multiple media outlets in central and northern New York. A Camillus native, Jessica enjoys exploring the outdoors with her daughters, going to the theater, playing the piano, and reading.