New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s top aides used their power and influence to repeatedly cover up how many nursing home patients in the state died of COVID-19 as well as the Democrat administration’s role in creating the deadly scandal, the New York Times reports.
When health officials, under the watchful eye of the state administration, began to evaluate how many nursing home patients succumbed to COVID-19 after Cuomo directed long-term care facilities to accept positive patients in March 2020, the governor’s aides expressed concerns that the report was too critical of the Democrat leader and his policy.
“We are getting anxious over here on this report,” Cuomo’s top aide, Melissa DeRosa, reportedly wrote in a June email to health and Cuomo officials noting that the report seemed too harsh on the governor’s deadly policy “from my perspective.” “Needs to be able to stand up to scrutiny and definitively tell the story.”
While Cuomo aides altered the last version of the report to omit the deaths of approximately 9,000 nursing home residents who contracted COVID-19, the health department did another version of the study “aimed at the scientific press and drafted at the same time by nearly a dozen health officials” that estimated a much higher number of deaths than was included in the original report. The version that estimated “approximately 35 percent” of all COVID deaths in the state then “were nursing home residents,” however, was not released.
DeRosa was still displeased with the numbers that were publicized, which showed that 21 percent of all state deaths came from nursing homes, so she orchestrated an audit and a meeting between Gareth Rhodes, a top COVID adviser to the governor, and the health department in August to “go over the numbers.” Rhodes reportedly found at least 600 deaths that required more investigation, but at that point, Cuomo’s administration and DeRosa clamped up as national attention and the threat of a federal investigation loomed.
DeRosa and other aides publicly claimed they would not hand over the data to the Trump administration because they believed it to be a political ploy, but the Times reports that Cuomo’s office told state legislators they delayed giving out the data for “accuracy” purposes. When the health department sought approval from Cuomo’s administration for its draft letter in September, the Democrat’s office did not answer to the department or state legislators. Instead, the reportedly “totally accurate” data was released to the Trump administration without “public debate about other numbers at the same time.”
The administration continued to be plagued with inquiries from state lawmakers and reporters but stalled releasing true numbers until there could be a “further analysis of the data” as requested by Cuomo himself. Even after further analysis, however, the letter detailing the nursing home fatalities was never sent to the State Assembly.