New York State legislators had harsh words for New York Governor Andrew Cuomo and his administration's intentional withholding of accurate reporting on COVID deaths in nursing homes on Friday. This comes as the year anniversary of legislators granting Cuomo emergency powers in the state approaches.
State Senators Samra Brouk and Jeremy Cooney each released statements, and Senator Rob Ortt called out the governor as well, according to local news.
Cuomo is facing heavy criticism after it was revealed on Thursday that the cover-up of nursing home COVID deaths in the state was intentionally done to avoid a Department of Justice Investigation.
Brouk said that "The people of New York State and the 55th District deserve and demand transparency around the impact of COVID-19 on our communities. What we have learned about the governor’s handling of nursing home data is unacceptable. The emergency powers that had been granted to the governor to manage this pandemic are no longer needed and must be re-evaluated immediately. The legislature must act to re-establish proper legislative oversight of the governor’s actions and deliver honest, open leadership to our state."
Cooney said that New York must hold hearings on Cuomo's cover-up, and that they must be transparent. "I am outraged by the revelations from last night's New York Post Article," he wrote.
"Every day my office receives calls from Rochester families who are worried about their loved ones in nursing homes. Especially during a pandemic, it is crucial that the public have the utmost trust in their public health officials. This trust has been broken. New Yorkers deserve to know the truth. The Senate must act. We need transparent hearings to hold those who misled the public accountable."
Top aide to Democrat Governor Andrew Cuomo Melissa DeRosa, apologized to New York Democratic lawmakers for withholding the state's nursing-home coronavirus death totals. The administration's reasoning was that they feared the real numbers would "be used against us" by federal prosecutors.
In a leaked recording of a phone call, DeRosa said Trump "starts tweeting that we killed everyone in nursing homes. He starts going after [New Jersey Gov. Phil] Murphy, starts going after [California Gov. Gavin] Newsom, starts going after [Michigan Gov.] Gretchen Whitmer."
DeRosa also claimed on the recording that Trump directed "the Department of Justice to do an investigation into us."
"Because then 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."
A statement from Cuomo senior advisor Rich Azzopardi wrote in defense of the administration's withholding and obfuscation of the number of COVID deaths in nursing homes by blaming then President Trump. Azzopardi said "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.
"That said," Azzopardi continued, "we were working simultaneously to complete the audit of the information they were asking for."
This comes after New York State Attorney General Letitia James released a report on detailing the investigations her office has conducted into nursing homes policies and actions during the pandemic. The report shows that the nursing home deaths in New York State were likely undercounted by up to 50 percent.
The investigation, ongoing since March, when Governor Andrew Cuomo issued his directive to send COVID patients back to nursing homes following hospitalizations, was begun due to allegations of "patient neglect and other concerning conduct."
In July, the Dept. of Health tried to counter the claim that sending patients back to nursing homes while they were still contagious had occurred, saying the patients "were no longer contagious when admitted and therefore were not a source of infection." James' investigation reveals that this was untrue.
James' investigation focuses on 20 nursing homes that are of particular concern. She stated: "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."
"While we cannot bring back the individuals we lost to this crisis," James said, "this report seeks to offer transparency that the public deserves and to spur increased action to protect our most vulnerable residents. Nursing homes residents and workers deserve to live and work in safe environments, and I will continue to work hard to safeguard this basic right during this precarious time."