New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo on Feb. 15 responded to the growing criticism of his handling of the CCP virus situation in the state’s nursing homes, coming after several reports were published that suggested the administration attempted to delay the release of COVID-19 death information from state-run health care facilities.
“The New York State Department of Health fully and publicly reported all COVID deaths in nursing homes and hospitals. They have always been fully reported,” Cuomo said during a news conference. “We paused the state legislature’s request. We voluntarily complied with the [Department of Justice’s] request for information. Two very different things.”
“Nursing homes have the most vulnerable populations, we know that.”
Cuomo said there was no connection between the nursing home questions and emergency powers that he used.
Cuomo, a Democrat, said that “all deaths in nursing homes and hospitals were fully, publicly, and accurately reported,” adding that there was a “delay in providing the press and the public with providing all that additional information.”
“The truth is everybody did the best they could,” he said. “The truth is it was the middle of a terrible pandemic. The truth is, COVID attacks older people. The truth is, with all we know, people still die.”
Last week, more than a dozen Democratic lawmakers called for the removal of Cuomo’s powers after a New York Post 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 Democrats 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.”
The NY Post reported that it obtained an audio recording of a conference call in which Secretary to the Governor Melissa DeRosa allegedly told Democratic lawmakers that Cuomo’s administration withheld the nursing home death toll figures because they might be “used against us” by the Trump administration’s Department of Justice.
When officials learned about Justice Department’s investigation, “we froze,” said DeRosa, according to the NY Post.
“So, we do apologize,” she added. “I do understand that you were put in … that political position with the Republicans.”
Cuomo’s office didn’t deny that DeRosa made the comments.
DeRosa, in confirming her remarks, said in a Feb. 12 statement that she “was 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. We informed the houses of this at the time.”
“We were comprehensive and transparent in our responses to the DOJ, and then had to immediately focus our resources on the second wave and vaccine rollout,” she said.
Last month, Attorney General Letitia James released a report that found the state may have underreported nursing home deaths by as much as 50 percent. Cuomo was lauded earlier on in the pandemic for his state’s response, eventually winning an Emmy Award last year.
Queens Councilman Robert Holden, a Democrat, said last week that Cuomo’s Emmy should be taken away, saying, “We now know that his TV appearances and clout were used to mislead the public regarding how their loved ones died.”