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New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo. Photo: Mike Segar/pool/AFP via Getty Images

Senior aides to New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) engaged in a sustained campaign over several months to keep state health officials from releasing the full nursing home death toll caused by the coronavirus, the New York Times reports.

Why it matters: The FBI is investigating Cuomo's office following a probe by New York Attorney General Letitia James, also a Democrat, that found his administration undercounted deaths in nursing homes by as much as 50%.

Details: Cuomo's senior aides reportedly worked to prevent New York's health commissioner Howard Zucker and other officials from releasing data: a scientific paper that was never published, an audit completed months before being made public, and two letters written by the New York Health Department for state lawmakers that were never sent.

  • "The actions coincided with the period in which Mr. Cuomo was pitching and then writing a book on the pandemic, with the assistance of his top aide, Melissa DeRosa, and others," per the Times. Crown Publishing Group halted promotion of the book in March.
  • Flashback: Zucker said in late January there was nothing wrong with the accuracy of the health department's numbers, following James' initial investigation.

What they're saying: “The whole brouhaha here is overblown to the point where there are cynical suggestions offered for the plain and simple truth that the chamber wanted only to release accurate information that they believed was totally unassailable,” Elkan Abramowitz, a lawyer representing Cuomo’s office, told the Times.

  • “The chamber was never satisfied that the numbers that they were getting from D.O.H. were accurate,” Abramowitz said, adding that actions by Cuomo’s aides were unrelated to his book on leadership lessons from the pandemic.

Go deeper

Apr 28, 2021 - World

India's COVID death toll tops 200,000 amid under-reporting claims

A man performs the last rites of a family member who died of COVID-19 as other funeral pyres burn during a mass cremation at a crematorium in New Delhi, India., Saturday. Photo: Anindito Mukherjee/Getty Images

India's COVID-19 death toll surged past 200,000 on Wednesday, as the country set another daily global cases record.

Of note: Medical experts and members of India's opposition parties say the actual death toll and case numbers are much higher, a charge Prime Minister Narendra Modi's ruling Bharatiya Janata Party denies.

Apr 28, 2021 - Health

The CDC's mask guidance is really vaccine guidance

Rochelle P. Walensky, Director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, in D.C. in April. On April 27, she announced updated CDC guidance that fully vaccinated people no longer need to wear masks outside. Photo: Tom Williams-CQ-Roll Call, Inc/Getty Images

If it wasn't already clear that federal health officials really think you should get a coronavirus vaccine, yesterday's guidelines about outdoor mask-wearing should help.

Why it matters: The new guidance — which says vaccinated people can go maskless in many outdoor settings — changes little in practical terms. But experts hope it could help convince folks on the fence to get immunized, particularly since vaccination rates have fallen in recent weeks.

Caitlin Owens, author of Vitals
Apr 28, 2021 - Health

Why Novavax is the "dark-horse" COVID-19 vaccine

Illustration: Annelise Capossela/Axios

Novavax's shot could become the next coronavirus vaccine in the U.S. arsenal, potentially jumping ahead of AstraZeneca in the line for U.S. authorization, Politico reports.

Why it matters: The vaccine proved to be just as effective as Pfizer and Moderna's mRNA vaccines in a U.K. clinical trial, and could become a crucial tool in the global vaccination effort.