Once deemed a hero during COVID-19, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo now faces bipartisan disdain
Cuomo’s administration stands accused of mishandling COVID-19 death data in New York nursing homes and how its policies could have contributed to high counts.
Democratic New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo is in the middle of a growing controversy surrounding COVID-19 deaths in nursing homes and whether they could have been prevented.
On Monday, Feb. 15, Cuomo acknowledged for the first time that his administration’s initial reporting of coronavirus deaths in New York nursing homes lacked transparency and led to increased anxiety and disinformation.
He confessed that his administration failed to promptly answer questions concerning the number of residents in New York’s nursing homes and long-term care facilities who have died from COVID-19 — now more than 13,000.
He said that this delayed response allowed for a void “filled with skepticism, cynicism, and conspiracy theories which furthered the confusion.” In response, the governor did not directly apologize for the miscommunication and has defended his administration’s actions.
The hashtag #CuomoCoverup is trending right now on Twitter with more than 18.5k tweeting about it.
This after the Governor spoke about the nursing home scandal in a briefing this afternoon, saying he takes responsibility for not releasing the nursing home numbers sooner. pic.twitter.com/LNGzlekjHm
— Anne McCloy (@AnneMcCloyNews) February 15, 2021
Cuomo’s top aide, Melissa DeRosa revealed during a call with state lawmakers that the administration “froze” when handling an inquiry from the legislature, while it was handling a request sent by the Department of Justice regarding the deaths.
In DeRosa’s conversation with lawmakers, first reported by The New York Post, she claimed that the administration feared the data could be used against them in some way.
Cuomo was widely praised early in the pandemic for his candid news conferences and persistent requests for more medical equipment from the federal government. But he’s now facing bipartisan criticism for the mishandling of this data, as well as a controversial directive from his administration that transferred 9,000 recovering coronavirus patients to nursing homes.
What people are primarily concerned about is whether New York could have better prevented the deaths of nearly 46,000 in the state, and whether the decision to discharge recovering patients from hospitals back to nursing homes increased infections among vulnerable elderly residents.
State Attorney General Letitia James released a report in January showing that the New York State Department of Health undercounted COVID-19 deaths among nursing home residents by about 50%, essentially leaving out the deaths of residents who had been transferred to hospitals.
In a press conference on Friday Jan. 29, Cuomo said that the administration did the best they could.
“The State Department of Health followed federal guidance. So, if you think there was a mistake, then go to the federal government,” he said.
Further defending himself and his team, he said in a conference on Monday, Feb. 15 that the state Department of Health always “fully” reported all COVID-19 deaths in nursing homes and hospitals, and insisted that there’s “nothing to investigate.”
The governor is not entitled to his own facts or alternate timeline of events. If the DOJ request took precedence and that was the cause for the delayed response, why didn't the Legislature receive answers shortly after his Administration responded to the DOJ request? https://t.co/2WlT6s5tba
— Carolina Rodriguez (@caridulce22) February 15, 2021
State Sen. Julia Salazar (D-Brooklyn) posted a thread on Twitter where she accused Cuomo of lying.
“If the Governor had actually informed the legislature months ago that his office was withholding the data they had on total nursing home deaths, there would’ve been no need for them to have a call with a group of legislators last week to inform them of this for the first time,” she said.
Now, more than a dozen elected leaders, including New York State Senator Rob Ort, Congressman Tom Reed and Assemblymember Monica Wallace, are calling for an investigation into Gov. Cuomo, and many Republican leaders are calling for impeachment and for his emergency powers to be revoked.
Public officials have an obligation to be honest and truthful with the public at all times, even if the information is unfavorable. Those who withheld the information on the deaths of nursing home residents from the public must be held accountable. pic.twitter.com/sk3u9EFz1B
— Assm. Monica Wallace (@MonicaPWallace) February 12, 2021
A report by the New York Department of Health argued that the readmissions could not have contributed to the spread of the virus in nursing homes, because the patients returned from the hospital already were being treated, and were most likely not infectious anymore.
Cuomo has stood firm in his refusal to apologize for his administration’s decisions.
“I want everyone to know everything was done — everything was done — by the best minds in the best interest, and the last thing that we wanted to do was to aggravate a terrible situation,” he said.