Top New York state and health officials are facing potential investigation after an aide to Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) revealed that the state lied about nursing home coronavirus deaths out of fear the data would be used against them.
Melissa DeRosa, secretary to Cuomo, made the admission late last week while speaking privately to Democratic lawmakers about the nursing home COVID-19 data, the New York Post reported.
New York’s coronavirus counts for nursing homes have faced extreme scrutiny following the release of a 79-page report by the state attorney general in late January. The investigation found that the state may have undercounted coronavirus-related deaths in nursing homes by as much as 50%.
After refusing to release the full data, the Cuomo administration was later ordered to release its full nursing home death data after a ruling by the state Supreme Court. The updated data showed that more than 9,000 recovering coronavirus patients were released from hospitals into New York nursing homes under a controversial state directive, according to an investigation by the Associated Press.
The state also increased the overall number of COVID-19 deaths attributed to long-term care facilities to 15,000 — up from the previous 8,500 that was originally disclosed by the state.
‘Criminal abuse of power’
DeRosa told lawmakers that state officials “basically froze” after facing attacks from former President Donald Trump and calls for a Department of Justice investigation on the matter.
“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,” DeRosa said.
“That played a very large role into this,” she added.
State leaders have since called for the Cuomo administration to be investigated for its coronavirus response at nursing homes.
“Governor Cuomo, the Secretary to the Governor, and his senior team must be prosecuted immediately — both by the Attorney General of New York State and the U.S. Department of Justice,” Rep. Elise Stefanik (R-NY) wrote in a statement.
“This bombshell admission of a coverup and the remarks by the Secretary to the Governor indicating intent to obstruct any federal investigation is a stunning and criminal abuse of power,” Stefanik added.
Cuomo on Monday denied there was a cover-up and explained the state should have released the data sooner but was delayed due to federal requests. He said the mistake resulted in a void of information and caused “misinformation, disinformation, conspiracy theories, and now people have to hear that, and they don’t know what is the truth.
“The truth is you had the best medical professionals and advice on the globe. The truth is it was in the middle of a terrible pandemic. The truth is COVID attacks senior citizens. The truth is, with all we know, people still die in nursing homes,” he said.