New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s administration withheld the true number of nursing home deaths from COVID-19 out of fear that federal prosecutors would use the numbers against the state, according to a report Thursday from the New York Post.
A top Cuomo aid, Secretary to the Governor Melissa DeRosa, made the admission during a video conference call with New York state Democratic leaders, according to the Post, saying “we froze” when former President Donald Trump began criticizing the governor’s handling of the COVID-19 outbreak in his state’s nursing homes.
“He starts tweeting that we killed everyone in nursing homes,” DeRosa said, according to The Post. “He starts going after [New Jersey Gov. Phil] Murphy, starts going after [California Gov. Gavin] Newsom, starts going after [Michigan Gov.] Gretchen Whitmer.”
Trump then “directs the Department of Justice to do an investigation into us,” DeRosa reportedly said.
“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,” she reportedly said. “That played a very large role in this.”
DeRosa then asked the lawmakers to have “a little bit of appreciation of the context” surrounding the Cuomo administration’s reporting of COVID-19 nursing home deaths.
“So we do apologize,” DeRosa reportedly said. “I do understand the position that you were put in. I know that it is not fair. It was not our intention to put you in that political position with the Republicans.”
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DeRosa told the DCNF that she was explaining to the lawmakers that the Cuomo administration had to “temporarily set aside” the state lawmaker’s request for nursing home deaths in order to deal with the Department of Justice’s inquiry.
“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,” DeRosa said. “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”
At the onset of the pandemic, New York, along with the other 9 states with the largest COVID-19 outbreaks in nursing homes, reported all nursing home residents who died from the virus, regardless of whether they died at the facility or at a hospital.
However, after Cuomo began receiving considerable criticism over his administration’s March 25 order that required nursing homes to accept COVID-19 positive patients, the New York State Department of Health changed its nursing home reporting to only counting residents who died while physically present at their facility.
More than 9,000 recovering COVID-19 patients were released into New York nursing homes due to Cuomo’s order, according to the Associated Press. The order was revoked in May.
The NYSDOH previously confirmed to the DCNF that it changed the way it reports nursing home COVID-19 deaths around May 3.
Cuomo then used his state’s manipulated statistics to claim New York had a much lower nursing home fatality rate than other states with large COVID-19 outbreaks.
“Look at the basic facts where New York is versus other states,” Cuomo said in an August press conference. “You look at where New York is as a percentage of nursing home deaths, it’s all the way at the bottom of the list.”
Cuomo’s administration revealed in late January that at least 12,743 nursing home residents had died from COVID-19, a figure nearly 50% larger than the NYSDOH’s official tally at the time.
“Whether a person died in a hospital or died in a nursing home, it’s the people dying. People died,” Cuomo said during a January press conference.
“Who cares? … died in a hospital, died in a nursing home. They died,” he later added.
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