Fourteen Democratic state senators in New York issued a joint statement to call on the removal of Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s emergency powers after a report revealed that his administration allegedly covered up nursing home death data and apologized to state Democratic lawmakers in a private conference call.
“While COVID-19 has tested the limits of our people and state—and, early during the pandemic, required the government to restructure decision making to render rapid, necessary public health judgments—it is clear that the expanded emergency powers granted to the Governor are no longer appropriate,” the 14 lawmakers said. “While the executive’s authority to issue directives is due to expire on April 30, we urge the Senate to advance and adopt a repeal as expeditiously as possible.”
A report from the New York Post, which included audio, revealed that secretary to the governor Melissa DeRosa, allegedly told Democratic lawmakers that Cuomo’s administration withheld the nursing home death toll figures because it might be “used against us” by the Trump administration’s Department of Justice (DOJ).
When they learned about the investigation, “we froze,” said DeRosa. “So, we do apologize,” she added, according to the NY Post. “I do understand that you were put in … that political position with the Republicans.”
DeRosa on Friday morning said her remarks that were published by the NY Post were “explaining that when we received the DOJ inquiry, we needed to temporarily set aside the Legislature’s request to deal with the federal request first.” She added: “We informed the houses of this at the time.”
DeRosa added: “As I said on a call with legislators, we could not fulfill their request as quickly as anyone would have liked. But we are committed to being better partners going forward as we share the same goal of keeping New Yorkers as healthy as possible during the pandemic,” according to a tweet from Cuomo spokesman Rich Azzopardi.
Last month, New York Attorney General Letitia James published a report saying that New York state officials may have underreported state nursing home deaths by as much as 50 percent.
“As the pandemic and our investigations continue, it is imperative that we understand why the residents of nursing homes in New York unnecessarily suffered at such an alarming rate,” James said in a statement at the time. “While we cannot bring back the individuals we lost to this crisis, this report seeks to offer transparency that the public deserves and to spur increased action to protect our most vulnerable residents.”
Following James’ report, Cuomo has increasingly faced calls to resign.
“Who cares [if they] died in the hospital, died in a nursing home? They died,” Cuomo said at a news conference in January in response to the investigation, which drew further condemnation.
The Epoch Times has reached out to Cuomo’s office for comment.