Once Showered with Praise from the Left, Cuomo Now Raked Over the Coals in COVID Cover-Up


Democratic New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo wrote a book on managing the pandemic and was awarded an Emmy for his daily coronavirus briefings.

Now he faces intensifying accusations that he covered up the true death toll of the virus in nursing homes to protect his own political interests.

State lawmakers called for investigations, stripping Cuomo of his emergency powers and even his resignation after new details emerged this week about why certain nursing home data was kept under wraps for months, despite requests from lawmakers and others.

Top aide Melissa DeRosa told lawmakers the data was delayed because officials worried that the information was “going to be used against us” by the Trump administration’s Department of Justice.

The new attacks from Republicans and Cuomo’s fellow Democrats mark a dramatic fall from grace.

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In the early days of the pandemic, Cuomo was lauded by many for his leadership. His daily briefings, in which he promised to deliver “just the facts,” won him an International Emmy and helped lead to his book, “American Crisis.”

The Cuomo administration for months underreported the statewide number of COVID-19 deaths among nursing home residents. It is now nearly 15,000, up from the 8,500 previously disclosed.

The new toll amounts to about one-seventh of the roughly 90,000 people living in nursing homes as of 2019 in New York, which has among the most nursing home residents in the nation.

Cuomo has dismissed criticism and noted that the thousands of nursing home residents’ deaths in hospitals were always counted in the state’s overall tally.

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“Died in a hospital, died in a nursing home — they died,” he said Jan. 29.

The third-term Democrat — who says he will run again in 2022 — is now facing criticism from members of his own party.

“The governor’s lack of transparency and stonewalling regarding his administration’s nursing home actions is unacceptable,” said state Sen. John Mannion, one of 14 Democratic state senators who said Friday that Cuomo’s expanded emergency powers should be revoked as soon as possible.

The higher death tolls were only divulged hours after a report late last month from state Attorney General Letitia James examining the administration’s failure to include nursing home residents who died in hospitals.

The updated numbers backed up the findings of an Associated Press investigation last year that concluded the state could have been underreporting deaths by thousands.

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Some have also questioned whether the virus’ spread in nursing homes was fueled by Cuomo’s March 25 directive that barred the facilities from refusing people because they had COVID-19.

Debra Diehl, 62, who lost her 85-year-old father, Reeves Hupman, to presumptive COVID-19 in May at a nursing home outside Albany, wants to know why Cuomo and the state didn’t do more to separate residents who may have had the virus.

“They had people coming up, sent from downstate hospitals up here,” Diehl said. “He did not know what he was doing, or he did not care.”

In reply to a Freedom of Information request from the AP in May, the state Health Department released records this week showing that more than 9,000 recovering COVID-19 patients in New York were released from hospitals into nursing homes from March 25 to May 10, when Cuomo undid the directive.

The state issued a report insisting that the patients didn’t drive transmission of the virus in nursing homes, though it didn’t rule out that the directive had played a role in the virus’ spread.

DeRosa has estimated that New York nursing home residents made up 40 percent of the lives lost this winter. New York has reported over 10,000 deaths since Dec. 1.

The disclosure of DeRosa’s comments this week in a conference call with Democratic lawmakers brought months of complaints to a boiling point.

She said the state “froze” when lawmakers in August requested the number of nursing home residents who had died in hospitals.

Officials were also responding to a Justice Department inquiry and worried that “what we start saying was going to be used against us, and we weren’t sure if there was going to be an investigation.”

DeRosa issued a statement on Friday saying that the state was slow to respond to the lawmakers because it was dealing with the Justice Department as well as with the virus’ resurgence and vaccinations. The governor’s office declined to comment further.

“It gave the impression of them trying to whitewash the information,” Democratic state Sen. Rachel May said.

Senate Republican Leader Rob Ortt said Cuomo “needs to demand the immediate resignation of anyone involved in this cover-up, and if he was aware, he must be removed from office.”

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