A New York lawmaker labeled as “criminal” the actions of Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s office in deciding to scrub the higher, more accurate tally of nursing home residents killed by the coronavirus from a state Health Department report last July.
“This is criminal,” tweeted Assemblyman Ron Kim (D-Queens), who chairs the Aging committee that oversees nursing homes.
“The Gov’s top advisors pushed state health officials to strip a public report of the data showing more nursing home deaths. The changes Cuomo’s aides made to the report reveal that they had the fuller accounting of NH deaths as early as the summer of 2020.”
“It’s criminal what they did and thousands died as a result of their intentional and reckless abuse of power,” Kim told The Post Friday.
Kim also said the earlier cover-up of the accurate count of nursing home deaths clashes with what Secretary to the Governor Melissa DeRosa told him and other lawmakers at a Feb. 10 virtual meeting. As reported exclusively by The Post, DeRosa claimed team Cuomo withheld nursing home data from lawmakers because of a federal probe by the Trump-led Justice Department.
A federal prosecutor-turned lawmaker was also outraged by the cover-up.
“Let’s be clear: if any State employee knowingly whitewashed an official report to cover up the deaths of New Yorkers, that is unacceptable and unethical, at best. We need to get answers now, and this whole thing reeks,” tweeted Sen. Todd Kaminsky (D-Nassau).
The July report, which largely defended a controversial and since-rescinded administration policy of requiring nursing homes to accept coronavirus patients discharged from the hospitals, had said 6,432 nursing-home residents died from the virus.
But that figure only listed those who died from the virus at nursing homes.
Draft reports from the Health Department also included nursing home residents who died from COVID-19 at hospitals, a tally of more than 9,000. But top aides to Cuomo serving on his coronavirus task force stripped the more complete count from the final report, the Wall Street Journal reported.
Updated data reveal that more than 15,000 nursing home and other long-term care residents died from COVID-19.
“Sadly Cuomo has boxed himself into a corner with little room but to resign,” said Vivian Zayas, founder of VoicesForSeniors, whose mom, Ana Martinez, died from COVID-19 at a Long Island nursing home.
The chairwoman of the state Senate Aging Committee said Cuomo must resign if the cover-up of nursing home data is substantiated.
“If true, everyone involved in lying to the public and to the Legislature must resign immediately. And that includes the Governor,” said state Sen. Rachel May (D-Syracuse).
May blasted Cuomo’s “overweening need to burnish his public image, and it was made possible, if not inevitable, by the culture he created of secrecy and fear of retribution that has been amply documented in recent days.
She said the nursing homes were a mess during the peak of the pandemic because of staff shortages and lack of infection control.
“The next administration must turn immediately to addressing the crisis in long-term care that plagues this state,” May said.
In a statement released Thursday night, Cuomo’s offense defended altering the report and removing the higher nursing home resident death count.
“The out-of-facility data was omitted after DOH could not confirm it had been adequately verified,” Beth Garvey, special counsel to Cuomo, said in a statement.