New York Democrat leaders blocked a subpoena Monday seeking more information from Gov. Andrew Cuomo regarding the number of people who died in nursing homes from the coronavirus.
Cuomo is facing increasing scrutiny after state Attorney General Letitia James, a Democrat, released a report last week accusing the governor of failing to report thousands of nursing home residents’ deaths to COVID-19.
Pointing to the report, state Sen. Thomas O’Mara, R-Elmira, made a motion Monday to subpoena records that would reveal more about the nursing home deaths, The Blaze reports.
“It is time for the Senate Democrat Majority to stop stonewalling and protecting Governor Cuomo on the nursing homes crisis,” O’Mara said. “In the wake of the attorney general’s report, the failure of the Investigations Committee to immediately issue subpoenas and demand testimony from Governor Cuomo and his administration once again completely abandons legislative responsibility.”
However, the state Senate Committee on Investigations and Government Operations, which Democrats lead, blocked his motion and later muted O’Mara’s microphone during the online meeting, according to the report.
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State Sen. James Skoufis, D-Rockland, who chairs the committee, said a subpoena is no longer necessary because state Health Commissioner Howard Zucker provided a new death count in response to the attorney general’s investigation, the New York Post reports.
Zucker was accused of stonewalling requests for details for months. A few hours after James’ report, however, he released a new number, 12,743 nursing home deaths, which is about 4,000 more than state health officials previously reported, according to the report.
Here’s more from the Post:
[Skoufis] said he expected Zucker to release more information when he testifies during a Feb. 25 budget hearing.
Skoufis then slammed O’Mara for what he called an “ambush” because he did not give him notice beforehand of the motion.
The chief lawyer for the investigations panel then claimed the motion was procedurally out of order because it had not been submitted in writing.
O’Mara said he believes they still have a duty to seek more information from Cuomo’s administration because so many people died.
Originally, New York reported 8,110 deaths at nursing homes due to the coronavirus. However, the state tally only included people who died at a facility. Nursing home residents who were transferred to hospitals and died there were not included in the total.
Cuomo’s administration was accused of hiding the numbers to cover up his March 2020 policy that required nursing homes to accept COVID-positive patients – an action that placed potentially contagious people together with those most vulnerable to the virus. He later reversed the policy.
New York Senate Minority Leader Robert Ortt accused Democrat lawmakers of putting party politics ahead of their duty to serve New Yorkers.
“There comes a point in time when you have to ask why the majority seems content to abdicate its governmental responsibilities,” Ortt wrote at the New York Post. “Sure, it’s easy to let the executive do all the work. But it’s also dangerous, as this governor’s mistakes on COVID-19 demonstrate. We were elected to a co-equal branch of government, because all New Yorkers suffer when our state government has no system of checks and balances.”
Ortt said they want to know the real number of people who died from COVID so that they can fix the problems and protect lives.
“The attorney general’s report is likely just the tip of the iceberg,” he said.
Overall, New York has the highest COVID-19 death numbers and the highest or second highest death rate (deaths per 100,000) in the United States – a status it has maintained for months, according to coronavirus statistics updated daily at NBC News.
Criticism of the Democrat governor has come from both sides of the political aisle as well as multiple news outlets and watchdog groups.
The Times Union, the Associated Press and others believe the current nursing home death total is a “significant undercount.” ProPublica, a left-leaning investigative news publication, also criticized the Democrat governor for releasing a book praising himself for his handling of the virus – despite his failure to be transparent about the nursing home deaths.
Janice Dean, a senior meteorologist at Fox News, has been a leading critic of Cuomo after both her in-laws died from the coronavirus in March in assisted living and nursing home facilities in New York.
“Here’s one hard truth Cuomo has still yet to tell: how many nursing home residents have died of COVID-19. 9 months into the pandemic, and three months after his health commissioner testified that he was hard at work counting NH deaths, Cuomo has not announced the grim total,” Dean wrote on Twitter in October.
She believes Cuomo’s order led to her in-laws’ deaths. And she has been calling for an investigation.
Four other Democrat governors also ordered nursing homes to take coronavirus patients in 2020 before reversing their orders: New Jersey, California, Pennsylvania and Michigan. These states are among the top ten for the highest coronavirus deaths in the country.