NY Governor Andrew Cuomo’s aide says data on Covid death was withheld
New York Governor Andrew Cuomo’s top aide told lawmakers she withheld nursing homes’ Covid-19 death toll for fear it would spark a federal investigation, according to reports in the New York Post and New York Times.
Secretary to the Governor Melissa DeRosa told Democratic leaders that the state rebuffed an August legislative request for the number amid federal demands for a similar accounting, the Post report said.
“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, and what we start saying, was going to be used against us and we weren’t sure if there was going to be an investigation,” DeRosa told lawmakers, according to a partial transcript published by the Times.
“Basically, we froze,” DeRosa told the lawmakers, according to the Post report.
The report was the latest blow to Cuomo, who has tried to deflect a barrage of criticism that his policies increased Covid-19 related deaths among nursing-home residents. On Feb. 3, a New York Supreme Court judge ordered the state Health Department to release data that revealed a larger increase in the number of deaths among patients in nursing homes than previously thought.
State Attorney General Letitia James has also accused the Cuomo administration of undercounting Covid-19 deaths in nursing homes by as much as 50%, and of obscuring data available to assess the risk to patients.
In a statement Friday, DeRosa tried to clarify her remarks to Democratic legislators. She said the administration prioritized answering queries about the figures from the Trump administration.
“I was explaining that when we received the Department of Justice inquiry, we needed to temporarily set aside the Legislature’s request to deal with the federal request first,” she said in an emailed statement. “We were comprehensive and transparent in our responses to the DOJ, and then had to immediately focus our resources on the second wave and vaccine rollout.”
She said the state couldn’t fulfill the legislators request for more data “as quickly as anyone would have liked. But we are committed to being better partners going forward.”