The Biden administration is officially dropping the investigation into embattled New York Governor Andrew Cuomo and the executive order he signed that became a death warrant for over 15,000 nursing home residents.
During the Trump administration, the Department of Justice sought information about Cuomo’s coronavirus nursing home order after his administration has repeatedly failed to produce an accurate number of nursing home deaths and covered up the numbers for months. But with Biden in charge, the probe has been dropped.
The Democrat governor’s order has been widely considered to be disastrous because it placed COVID-19 patients with the elderly and people with disabilities, those most vulnerable and likely to die from the virus. Cuomo later reversed the order, but he continually has refused to take responsibility for it. Recent reports showed that the scale of data manipulation continued for several months and was more extensive than first alleged.
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. She posted the news on twitter and issued a heartbroken statement.
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“A terrible day for thousands of families. In a letter to @SteveScalise, @TheJusticeDept wrote that they were dropping the nursing home investigations in all states including New York. There will be no justice for our loved ones, and it feels like we’ve lost them all over again,” she said.
A terrible day for thousands of families. In a letter to @SteveScalise, @TheJusticeDept wrote that they were dropping the nursing home investigations in all states including New York. There will be no justice for our loved ones, and it feels like we’ve lost them all over again. pic.twitter.com/DV7uNRMr9D
— Janice Dean (@JaniceDean) July 23, 2021
New York has the highest coronavirus death count and the second highest death rate in the U.S. in large part because of the nursing home deaths.
In May, Cuomo insisted during a press conference that he did nothing wrong in his handling of nursing homes during the coronavirus pandemic and would not resign from his position.
Cuomo said that the investigation into his handling of nursing homes “was a political investigation started by Donald Trump.” He insisted that the former president politicized nursing home policies during the pandemic and unfairly blamed Democratic governors for cases and deaths in nursing homes.
“It was all our fault,” Cuomo said. “And then had his political Department of Justice start an investigation. And they were a political Department of Justice, there’s no doubt about that.”
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“I did nothing wrong … period,” the governor added. “And I’m not resigning and I’m doing my job every day.”
Last year, the Department of Justice asked the state for data about the 600-plus nursing homes in the state as well as detailed information about hospital deaths related to COVID-19. Officially, New York reported 6,722 deaths at nursing homes due to the coronavirus this year. However, the state tally only includes people who died at the facility; nursing home residents who were transferred to hospitals and died there are not included in the total.
Times Union columnist Chris Churchill, the Associated Press and others believe the 6,700-plus reported nursing home deaths are a “significant undercount.”
“The state is hiding the truth in other words – perhaps to make a controversial March 25 order requiring that nursing homes accept COVID-19 patients appear less catastrophic than it really was,” Churchill wrote in reaction to the new Department of Justice request.
Churchill said Cuomo keeps criticizing the investigation as a political, partisan attack, but it is not true. News outlets with right and left political leanings have been questioning the governor, as have Democrat and Republican lawmakers.
“Journalists and state lawmakers from both parties have repeatedly asked for the full count, only to be stonewalled by Cuomo and the Department of Health,” he wrote. “There’s no logical reason for the secrecy, other than protecting the governor’s reputation.”
Cuomo is not alone. Four other Democrat governors also ordered nursing homes to take coronavirus patients: New Jersey, California, Pennsylvania and Michigan. These five states have some of the highest nursing home death numbers, according to data from the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services.
Like so many others, Dean said she wants to know why the governor put vulnerable nursing home patients at risk, why he did not use the other makeshift hospitals for COVID-19 patients instead and why the state still has not released the total number of nursing-home deaths linked to the virus.
“This is not political. It’s about accountability @NYGovCuomo,” she wrote on Twitter. “We won’t stop.”
The New York Times reported April 28 that Cuomo’s aides purposefully prevented state health officials from releasing the true number of nursing home deaths to the public. The effort took place over five months in 2020.
One study found that 35% of all coronavirus deaths were in nursing homes by July of 2020, but the published report said that the number was 21%. Cuomo’s aides also put immense pressure to prevent a report from State Health Commissioner Howard Zucker from being sent to the state assembly speaker while they were investigating nursing home deaths, according to the Times. Zucker’s letter said that a total of 9,835 nursing home residents had died from coronavirus.
Elkan Abramowitz, a lawyer representing Cuomo’s office, told The New York Times that the administration was “reluctant” to release unreliable information and called the situation “overblown.”