Melissa DeRosa, Governor Cuomo’s top aide, privately apologized to Democratic lawmakers for withholding the state’s nursing-home death toll from COVID-19.
In a confession made during a conference call with New York state Democrats, obtained by The New York Post, Melissa DeRosa asked for understanding from their critics. DeRosa told lawmakers: “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.”
She said the Cuomo administration had rebuffed a legislative request for the tally in August because “right around the same time, [then-President Donald Trump] turns this into a giant political football,” according to an audio recording of the two-hour-plus meeting. “He starts tweeting that we killed everyone in nursing homes,” DeRosa said. “He starts going after [New Jersey Gov. Phil] Murphy, starts going after [California Gov. Gavin] Newsom, starts going after [Michigan Gov.] Gretchen Whitmer.” DeRosa said Trump “directs the Department of Justice to do an investigation”. “And basically, we froze,” she told the lawmakers.
This admission came shortly before the Associated Press published new detail into how many patients recovering from COVID were sent back into nursing homes. They found more than 9,000 readmittances – a figure 40% higher than official data. DeRosa added: “That played a very large role into this.” After dropping the bombshell, DeRosa asked for “a little bit of appreciation of the context” and offered what appears to be the Cuomo administration’s first apology for its handling of nursing homes amid the pandemic [NY Post].
Calls are mounting for Cuomo to be prosecuted, with New York Congresswoman Elise Stefanik calling it a “stunning and criminal abuse of power”. On March 25 Gov. Cuomo had ordered nursing homes to readmit COVID-positive patients due to concerns about space in hospitals – despite fears of how the virus would spread among the vulnerable elderly. “No resident shall be denied re-admission or admission to [a nursing home] solely based on a confirmed or suspected diagnosis of COVID-19,” the ruling stated. In January, the AP reported that the death toll from COVID among nursing home patients was 15,000 – an increase almost 50 per cent higher than the official statistics.
He later reversed the ruling, on May 10, barring nursing homes from accepting COVID-19 patients without a negative test first. State health officials contend that asymptomatic nursing home employees, not recovering COVID-19 patients, were the driving factor in nursing home outbreaks. Critics insist that his policy cost thousands of lives. Some states, including Connecticut, set up COVID 19-only nursing homes relatively early on [Daily Mail].
POLITICS EDITOR: CARSON CHOATE
PHOTO CREDITS: AM NEW YORK