Top Aide to NY Governor Cuomo Admits Withheld Data on Nursing Home COVID-19 Deaths

Kimberly Redmond  |

Video source: YouTube, TODAY

A top aide to New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo has apologized following reports the governor’s office withheld data related to the COVID-19 death toll in nursing homes across the state.

Cuomo’s aide, Melissa DeRosa, told lawmakers during a virtual conference call last week that the administration was concerned about a preliminary inquiry into the numbers by the U.S. Department of Justice and feared the information would be “used against us” by federal prosecutors, according to a partial transcript released by the governor’s office. 

“Basically, we froze,” DeRosa said. “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.”

Her apology follows the release of a report in late January from New York State Attorney General Letitia James showing the New York State Department of Health undercounted COVID-19 deaths among nursing home residents by 50%. 

The attorney general’s office said it determined “many nursing home residents died from COVID-19 in hospitals after being transferred from their nursing homes,” data that was not reflected in the state’s official tally. 

After months of failing to divulge its true numbers, the Cuomo administration acknowledged it has been underreporting the overall number of COVID-19 deaths among long-term care residents. The total is now nearly 15,000 up from the 8,500 previously disclosed, giving New York the highest nursing home death rate in the country.

Over the past several months, the governor’s administration has faced criticism for its handling of the pandemic after directing nursing homes to accept patients who had, or were suspected of having, COVID-19. The attorney general’s office said the decision created an onslaught of cases that infected thousands of patients and caused hundreds of deaths among the state’s most vulnerable population.

Cuomo has defended his nursing home policy to admit COVID-19 patients as in-line with guidance from the Trump administration at the time. He’s also blamed the investigation on a politically motivated effort by the former president.

A growing number of political officials are calling for Cuomo to step down from his third term in office. 

Lawmakers are also reconsidering their decision to grant Cuomo emergency powers to deal with the pandemic and are calling for those to be repealed.

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