Now, however, he faces bipartisan calls for investigation and restrictions on his executive powers after a top aide said the administration delayed the release of data on Covid-19 deaths for residents of the long-term care facility due to concerns over a potential federal investigation Trump administration, at a time when former President Donald Trump was personally threatening Cuomo.
At the heart of the matter is the question of whether New York could have better prevented the state’s nearly 46,000 deaths, the second highest number so far in any U.S. state, and whether the decision to discharge recovering residents from hospitals back to nursing homes increased infections among vulnerable elderly residents.
Here’s everything you need to know about the controversy.
James also said at the time that some nursing homes had underreported resident deaths in their facilities.
The report tentatively concluded that deaths were underreported based on a study of 62 nursing homes, roughly a sample of 10% of total facilities across the state.
The Attorney General’s report detailed a facility where deaths were underreported to the Department of Health with as many as 29 deaths.
In a statement responding to the report, New York State Health Commissioner Dr. Howard Zucker that there was generally a sub-number – argued that it was only a matter of classification.
The department “has always publicly reported the number of deaths in hospitals regardless of the patient’s residence and separately reported the number of deaths within nursing home facilities and has been aware of the nature of this reporting,” Zucker said at the time.
Cuomo has said the death toll started as a “political attack.”
“What I want to say is that everyone did the best they could,” Cuomo said during a news conference on January 29. “When I say that the State Ministry of Health – as the report said – followed the State Ministry of Health federal guidance. So if you think there was a mistake, talk to the federal government. It’s not about pointing fingers or blame. It is that this became a political football right. See if a person died in a hospital or died in a nursing home. That is – people died. People died. “
How did things escalate?
DeRosa specifically said the administration “froze” with respect to data requests from state lawmakers because it was concerned last summer about criticism from Trump and had not been sure what information it should provide following a request from the U.S. Department of Justice for an investigation into the state deaths in the nursing home Covid-19.
“The letter arrives at the end of August, and around the same time, President Trump is turning this into a giant political football. He starts tweeting that we killed everyone in nursing homes, he starts going after (New Jersey Gov. Phil) Murphy, starts going after (California Gavin) Newsom, starts going after (Michigan Gov.) Gretchen Whitmer, DeRosa according to a transcript of the call.
In a statement last week, DeRosa sought to clarify its comments on the call with lawmakers.
“I explained that when we received the DOJ survey, we had to temporarily revoke the legislature’s request to process the federal request first. We informed the houses about this at the time,” she said. “We were comprehensive and transparent in our response to the DOJ and then had to immediately focus our resources on the second wave and vaccine rollout.”
Cuomo himself said at a news conference Monday that the U.S. Department of Health has always “fully” reported all Covid-19 deaths in nursing homes and hospitals before insisting that there is “nothing to investigate.”
He also took responsibility for what he said they failed to provide information faster to the grieving people.
“The void allowed misinformation and conspiracy, and now people are left with the thought, ‘Did my beloved have to die?’ And it’s a brutal, brutal question to ask a person, “he said.” And I want everyone to know that everything was done. Everything was done by the best minds in the best interest. “
What has the fallout been?
“There is momentum moving in the direction of removing his powers,” a source told CNN’s Lauren del Valle. A bill is likely to be introduced this week in the state legislature and voted on early next week.
The source said there was support for removing Cuomo’s expanded powers before the assistant’s comments were made public, but now “it will definitely happen.”
Cuomo said Monday that there was no connection between questions about the nursing home and his emergency powers, and he said his Covid-19 legal actions are only to protect the public.
“These are public health decisions,” he said. “They are not local political decisions and they must be made on a public health basis.”
Other lawmakers are calling for an investigation into the episode, and the state Republican Party president has called for Cuomo’s indictment.
“The seriousness of this concealment cannot be overstated,” New York GOP President Nick Langworthy told a recent news conference.
“The Cuomo administration deliberately lied and withheld evidence and information to avoid prosecution,” he continued. “Andrew Cuomo must be prosecuted and Andrew Cuomo must be charged if this evidence exists.”
CNN’s Dakin Andone, Lauren del Valle and Eric Levenson contributed to this report.
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