In a stunning admission, a Gov. Andrew Cuomo aide is blowing the whistle on New York state's withholding of the true nursing home COVID-19 death count to mislead federal prosecutors, the New York Post reported in an exclusive Thursday night.
"Basically, we froze," Secretary to the Governor Melissa DeRosa told lawmakers in a private admission, per the report. "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."
"That played a very large role into this."
DeRosa told the lawmakers in a two-hour video conference call, per the Post, the Cuomo administration rebuffed a legislative request for the nursing home death toll because "right around the same time, [then-President Donald Trump] turns this into a giant political football."
"He starts tweeting that we killed everyone in nursing homes," DeRosa says in the audio of the call. "He starts going after [New Jersey Gov. Phil] Murphy, starts going after [California Gov. Gavin] Newsom, starts going after [Michigan Gov.] Gretchen Whitmer."
DeRosa also noted Trump "directs the Department of Justice to do an investigation into us."
More than 9,000 recovering coronavirus patients in New York state were released from hospitals into nursing homes early in the pandemic under a controversial order that was scrapped amid criticisms it accelerated outbreaks, according to new records obtained by The Associated Press.
The new number of 9,056 recovering patients sent to hundreds of nursing homes is more than 40% higher than what had been previously released by the state health department.
"And the issue for me, the biggest issue of all is feeling like I needed to defend — or at least not attack — an administration that was appearing to be covering something up," State Senate Aging Committee Chairwoman Rachel May, D-Syracuse, reportedly said on the call after rejecting DeRosa's apology.
"And in a, in a pandemic, when you want the public to trust the public-health officials, and there is this clear feeling that they're not coming, being forthcoming with you, that is really hard and it remains difficult."
Another Democrat, Assemblyman Ron Kim, D-Queens, told the Post on Thursday that it sounded "like they admitted that they were trying to dodge having any incriminating evidence that might put the administration or the [Health Department] in further trouble with the Department of Justice."
"That's how I understand their reasoning of why they were unable to share, in real time, the data," Kim told the Post.
"They had to first make sure that the state was protected against federal investigation."
Kim's uncle died of a presumed COVID-19 death in a nursing home in April, per the Post.
"It's not enough how contrite they are with us," Kim added to the Post. "They need to show that to the public and the families — and they haven't done that."
Health Commissioner Howard Zucker has now reported 15,049 from nursing homes and assisted living/adult care facilities, according to the Post.
"Who cares [if they] died in the hospital, died in a nursing home? They died," Gov. Cuomo said amid the controversy, deflecting the fact he mandated New York nursing homes take COVID-19 positive patients early in the pandemic.
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