New York State officials withheld information that would have detailed the true number of COVID-19 deaths in nursing homes due to fear of a federal investigation, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s (D) top aide told state lawmakers, according to a report.
The governor’s secretary Melissa DeRosa told state lawmakers in a video conference, which was first obtained by The New York Post, that state officials did not hand over a tally of the number of nursing home residents who died from COVID-19 because they were nervous that it could be used against them in an investigation.
Additionally, she said they were worried he would use the numbers as a political cudgel, “[Trump] starts tweeting that we killed everyone in nursing homes…He starts going after [New Jersey Gov. Phil] Murphy, starts going after [California Gov. Gavin] Newsom, starts going after [Michigan Gov.] Gretchen Whitmer.”
“And basically, we froze,” she said after the state received a request from information from the Department of Justice on the number of nursing from deaths.
She also said state officials withheld giving information to state lawmakers after the request from the Trump administration.
“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.”
A spokesperson for Cuomo defended the decision in a statement to the Post, “We explained that the Trump administration was in the midst of a politically motivated effort to blame democratic states for COVID deaths and that we were cooperating with Federal document productions and that was the priority and now that it is over we can address the state legislature.”
“That said, we were working simultaneously to complete the audit of information they were asking for,” it added.
On Friday, DeRosa claimed that the state officials had been “comprehensive and transparent” when they responded to requests from the Department of Justice.
She said, “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.”
“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,” she added.
However, the report sparked outrage from Republicans and Democrats.
Check out some of the reactions below:
You’re only sorry that you all got caught.— Alessandra Biaggi (@Biaggi4NY) February 12, 2021
Because of your decisions, thousands of people died who did not have to die.
We’re not “offended”, Melissa, we’re furious – with extremely good reason.
This is a betrayal of the public trust.— Andrew Gounardes (@agounardes) February 12, 2021
There needs to be full accountability for what happened, and the legislature needs to reconsider its broad grant of emergency powers to the governor. https://t.co/xmCZCygW7K
Governor Cuomo and his administration must be investigated from top to bottom and he must be stripped of his emergency powers.— Rob Ortt (@SenatorOrtt) February 12, 2021
Justice needs to be brought for the grieving families who have been ignored to protect Governor Cuomo and his Democrat allies in the Legislature. pic.twitter.com/N4B2c77u3w
Cuomo should resign as I have been saying for weeks and years. https://t.co/aEJgoBsjVN— Claudia Tenney (@claudiatenney) February 12, 2021
Last night's bombshell @nypost report detailed that, to block action by the DOJ, a top aide to Gov. Cuomo has admitted their office covered up key info on Cuomo's fatal nursing home directive. This is Obstruction of Justice. The DOJ must investigate & provide New Yorkers justice. pic.twitter.com/uUBYdPra6m— Lee Zeldin (@RepLeeZeldin) February 12, 2021
Gov’s claim that he did not release nursing home data because of fear of Trump is beyond ridiculous. No one has gained more political capital in this very blue state by blaming Trump for all manner of things, including nursing home issues, than this Gov.— Phil Steck (@PhilSteck) February 12, 2021
Thousands died because of @NYGovCuomo’s unconscionable executive order mandating nursing homes take in COVID-positive patients.— Office of Rep. Nicole Malliotakis (@RepMalliotakis) February 12, 2021
He must immediately resign & DoJ must continue its investigation into this to hold his administration accountable.
New York Attorney General Letitia James (D) released a report last month that found that state officials undercounted the number of nursing home deaths related to COVID-19 by as much as 50%, as IJR reported.