Report: Cuomo's Top Aide Told Lawmakers the State Intentionally Withheld Data on COVID-19 Nursing Home Deaths


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.

She said officials were nervous that then-President Donald Trump would direct the Department of Justice “to do an investigation into us.”

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.

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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:

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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.

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