Melissa DeRosa, the top aide to New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, privately admitted to Democratic lawmakers that the state hid the number of nursing home deaths to avoid prosecution, The New York Post reports.
Cuomo has been under fire for months for his directive requiring nursing homes to admit recovering coronavirus patients. New York Attorney General Letitia James released a report last month revealing that the administration undercounted nursing home deaths by more than 40%. The Associated Press reported on Thursday that over 9,000 coronavirus patients were sent from hospitals to nursing homes amid worries it was accelerating infections.
DeRosa in a private call told state Democratic leaders that the administration did not release the data because “we froze” out of concern the real numbers would “be used against us” by the Trump administration.
State worried about prosecution:
DeRosa told Democrats that the administration rejected the legislature’s request for data in August because “right around the same time, [Trump] turns this into a giant political football,” she said.
“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.”
Along with his attacks, she said, he “directs the Department of Justice to do an investigation into us.”
“And basically, we froze,” she 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.”
DeRosa apologized on the call.
“So we do apologize,” she said. “I do understand the position that you were put in. I know that it is not fair. It was not our intention to put you in that political position with the Republicans.”
“I don’t have enough time today to explain all the reasons why I don’t give that any credit at all,” Richard Gottfried, the chairman of the state assembly health committee, said on the call.
“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,” added Ron Kim, the head of the assembly’s committee on aging.
“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.”