(The Center Square) – An adviser to New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo appeared to admit that the administration had deliberately concealed the number of nursing home deaths during the summer of 2020 tied to COVID-19 in a bid to avoid political fallout and an investigation from the U.S. Justice Department, according to a published report.
The New York Post, citing a video conference call Wednesday between Melissa DeRosa, secretary to the governor, and a number of Democratic lawmakers, quoted DeRosa making the admissions.
“We were in a position where we weren’t sure if what we were going to give to the Department of Justice, or what we give to you guys, what we start saying, was going to be used against us while we weren’t sure if there was going to be an investigation,” DeRose told the lawmakers, according to the Post.
The issue of the nursing home deaths has dogged the Cuomo administration since the spring of 2020, during the early days of the pandemic, when the state’s policy that nursing homes were required to readmit residents infected by the coronavirus first attracted criticism. As the death toll continued to rise in nursing homes in March, April and May – a time when New York by far led the nation in coronavirus infections and deaths from COVID-19 – the New York Department of Health steadfastly refused to provide clear numbers as to how many deaths were tied to nursing homes.
Even after the nursing home readmission rule was rescinded in early May, the administration continued to fight the release of specific numbers. It was finally compelled to make a full accounting this month after a lawsuit and the release of a report by Attorney General Letitia James on the nursing home deaths.
Cuomo spokesman Rich Azzopardi tried to explain DeRosa’s comments as an attempt to explain why the delay of releasing data was justifiable.
“We explained that the Trump administration was in the midst of a politically motivated effort to blame democratic states for COVID deaths and that we were cooperating with Federal document productions and that was the priority and now that it is over we can address the state legislature,” he said in a statement posted to his Twitter account. “That said, we were working simultaneously to complete the audit of information they were asking for.”
Following the release of the Post’s story, New York Republicans called on a full investigation of the Cuomo administration’s actions.
“There is no need to deny what everyone in Albany and around New York State already knows: Governor Cuomo controls every aspect of his administration with an obsessive attention to detail,” Senate Republican Leader Rob Ortt said in a statement. “I am again calling that Governor Cuomo and his administration be investigated from top to bottom and that he be stripped of his emergency powers. Justice needs to be brought for the grieving families who have been ignored to protect Governor Cuomo and his Democrat allies in the Legislature.”
Ortt’s comments were echoed by his counterpart in the Assembly, Republican Leader Will Barclay.
“It seems every decision coming out of the governor's office is about ‘Team Cuomo’ protecting its own image and own interests,” Barclay said. “More than 15,000 seniors died in nursing homes and adult-care facilities, but the governor was clearly more worried about a Department of Justice investigation and political finger-pointing.”
State Sen. Jim Tedisco, R-Glenville, went even further, arguing that Cuomo should resign or be impeached.
“If this information that’s been reported is accurate, then Governor Cuomo has totally lost the trust of the people he represents and has violated his oath of office,” Tedisco said. “He should then resign or face impeachment and removal from office.”