Calls to prosecute Cuomo after his top aide admits they HID data on nursing home COVID deaths amid fear stats would be used against them in DOJ probe as it’s revealed 9K hospital patients were sent to nursing facilities – 40% higher than released
- Melissa DeRosa admitted they had hidden the COVID numbers in a Thursday call obtained by New York Post
- State Democrats in August had asked for the exact figures for nursing home deaths from COVID since March 1
- DeRosa, 38, secretary to the governor, said that at the same time the Trump administration was investigating
- Trump ‘directs the Department of Justice to do an investigation into us,’ she said on Thursday in the call
- ‘And basically, we froze’ and kept the information secret for five more months, she admitted to the lawmakers
- Calls are growing for Cuomo to be prosecuted over the cover-up, from Democrats and Republicans
- Republican New York congresswoman Elise Stefanik called it ‘a stunning and criminal abuse of power’
- Jumaane Williams, a Democrat serving as the New York City Public Advocate, asked: ‘How is this OK?’
- It emerged last month the overall number of COVID deaths among long-term care residents is nearly 15,000 – up from the 8,500 previously disclosed
- It emerged on Thursday that more than 9,000 recovering COVID patients were sent back into nursing homes – 40 per cent more than Cuomo previously said
Calls continue to mount to prosecute New York Governor Andrew Cuomo and his staff for their handling of the COVID-19 pandemic after a top aide admitted their administration hid damning information about deaths among nursing home patients, amid fears that it would be used against them in an investigation.
In a remarkable confession made during a conference call with New York state Democrats, obtained by The New York Post, Melissa DeRosa admitted that officials ‘froze’ in August when Donald Trump’s Department of Justice asked for the data, before rebuffing the request.
DeRosa told lawmakers: ‘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.’
The data remained secret for months until January, until a damning report from New York Attorney General Letitia James’ office said the state had undercounted the number of nursing home deaths by as much as 50 percent.
It forced New York State’s Department of Health to reveal that the true death toll among nursing home residents was 12,743, rather than the previously acknowledged 8,711. New York had previously only counted residents who died in nursing homes, and left out 4,000 residents who were taken to hospital and died there.
Republican New York Congresswoman Elise Stefanik said Thursday’s revelations of a cover up showed a ‘stunning and criminal abuse of power’, and led demands for prosecution.
A March 25 directive from Cuomo ordered nursing homes to accept thousands of COVID-positive patients when they were discharged from hospital – potentially spreading sickness and death among residents, a charge the state disputes.
DeRosa’s shocking admission came shortly before the Associated Press revealed that more than 9,000 patients were sent back to nursing homes – a figure 40 percent higher than official data.
Neither Cuomo nor his office have issued a statement acknowledging DeRosa’s bombshell admission, despite calls from local lawmakers for a public apology.
Cuomo’s office did not reply to DailyMail.com’s request for comment.
Melissa DeRosa (left), secretary to Andrew Cuomo (right), admitted that they ‘froze’
Cuomo, the Democrat governor of New York, was frequently at loggerheads with Donald Trump during the pandemic
A medic from Empress EMS loads a suspected COVID-19 patient from the Regency Extended Care Center into an ambulance on April 07, 2020 in Yonkers, New York. The nursing home had multiple hospitalizations for suspected coronavirus
Ambulance workers collect an elderly man from Cobble Hill Health Center in Brooklyn, which registered an alarming number of COVID-19 deaths. Cuomo has been criticized for his policy
DeRosa, the secretary to the governor, is one of Cuomo’s most trusted aides and delivered the mea culpa on Thursday
New York Assemblyman Ron Kim, a Democrat from Queens who was on the Thursday call, whose uncle died in a nursing home in April and is presumed to have had COVID-19, said DeRosa’s apology was unsatisfying.
‘It’s not enough how contrite they are with us,’ he told the Post.
‘They need to show that to the public and the families — and they haven’t done that.’
In the call on Thursday, DeRosa admitted they deliberately hid the data from state legislators, after the Trump administration began asking questions.
The Department of Justice announced it had opened an investigation on August 26 into ‘governors of states that issued orders which may have resulted in the deaths of thousands of elderly nursing home residents’.
She said state Democrats asked for the data in August, ‘right around the same time, [then-President Donald Trump] turns this into a giant political football.’
DeRosa added: ‘He starts tweeting that we killed everyone in nursing homes.’
‘He starts going after [New Jersey Gov. Phil] Murphy, starts going after [California Gov. Gavin] Newsom, starts going after [Michigan Gov.] Gretchen Whitmer.’
Trump, also, she said, ‘directs the Department of Justice to do an investigation into us.’
‘And basically, we froze.
‘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.
‘That played a very large role into this.’
DeRosa then asked for ‘a little bit of appreciation of the context’.
She then offered the Democrat lawmakers an apology for the ‘political position’ that Cuomo’s order put them in.
She told the officials: ‘We do apologize. 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.’
Rich Azzopardi, a senior Cuomo advisor, desperately tried to limit the damage caused by DeRosa Thursday night.
He tweeted: ‘We explained that the Trump administration was in the midst of a politically motivated effort to blame Democratic states for COVID deaths, and that we were cooperating with federal document productions – and that was the priority. And now that it is over, we can address the state Legislature.’
New York State was the the worst hit by the initial surge in COVID in April 2020, which saw New York City become the global epicenter for the virus
Hundreds of New Yorkers died a day during the spring peak of the state’s coronavirus crisis, when the Cuomo administration hid data on how many of those deaths occurred in nursing homes
Cuomo’s March order forced nursing homes to readmit COVID-positive patients due to concerns about space in hospitals – despite fears of how the virus would spread among the vulnerable elderly.
‘No resident shall be denied re-admission or admission to [a nursing home] solely based on a confirmed or suspected diagnosis of COVID-19,’ the ruling stated.
‘[Nursing homes] are prohibited from requiring a hospitalized resident who is determined medically stable to be tested for COVID-19 prior to admission or readmission.’
He later reversed the ruling, on May 10, barring nursing homes from accepting COVID-19 patients without a negative test first.
On Thursday, AP revealed that 9,056 recovering patients were sent to hundreds of nursing homes under Cuomo’s directive – more than 40% higher than what the state health department previously released.
State health officials contend that asymptomatic nursing home employees, not recovering COVID-19 patients, were the driving factor in nursing home outbreaks.
Critics insist that his policy cost thousands of lives.
Despite criticism of his handling of the pandemic, Cuomo released a book detailing what he claims are his victories, and also won an Emmy for his daily TV briefings.
Cuomo has been repeatedly asked for more details about the nursing home scandal for months, but has dodged the questions.
The governor was blasted in January after responding to the controversy by asking ‘who cares’ where the residents died, in ill-advised comments that enraged grieving relatives.
He said it did not matter if a COVID death was counted in a nursing home or hospital.
Andrew Cuomo, governor of New York, is facing calls to resign over his handling of the crisis
‘Whether a person died in a hospital or died in a nursing home, it’s…people died. People died,’ he said.
”I was in a hospital I got transferred to a nursing home,” he continued.
Cuomo released a book about his handling of the pandemic and he also won an Emmy for his daily TV briefings
‘New York is under the national average for nursing home deaths.
‘But who cares 33 [died in a hospital], 28 [died in a nursing home.] They died.’
He was immediately slammed as ‘disgusting’, ‘callous’ and ‘gutless’ by people whose loved ones died in nursing homes.
On February 3, a New York state Supreme Court judge, Justice Kimberly O’Connor, ruled that Cuomo has five business days to respond to a FOIL request to release data on COVID-19 in nursing homes.
The lawsuit was filed by Senator Jim Tedisco and the Empire Center for Public Policy, and O’Connor in her ruling was critical of the Department of Health for stalling on reporting nursing home data for several months.
The latest revelations that the Cuomo administration hid the damning data was met with outrage from politicians of both parties, as well as relatives of nursing home COVID victims.
Elsie Stefanik, a Republican representing New York in the House, said Cuomo must be ‘prosecuted immediately’.
‘This bombshell admission of a coverup and the remarks by the Secretary to the Governor indicating intent to obstruct any federal investigation is a stunning and criminal abuse of power,’ she said.
On Thursday New York state’s health department reported an additional 10,099 new COVID-19 cases
DeRosa admitted in the Thursday call that, in the spotlight, the Cuomo government ‘froze’
Stefanik added: ‘I have said from the beginning that this is more than a nursing home scandal, this is a massive corruption and coverup scandal at the highest level of New York State Government implicating the Governor, the Secretary to the Governor, the New York State Health Commissioner and the Governor’s staff.
‘The families who lost loved ones, New Yorkers, and all Americans deserve accountability from the U.S. Department of Justice that will be independent and not swayed by the desperate political pressure from Governor Cuomo.’
NY Senate Minority Leader Rob Ortt, a Republican, tweeted: ‘Governor Cuomo and his administration must be investigated from top to bottom and he must be stripped of his emergency powers. Justice needs to be brought for the grieving families who have been ignored to protect Governor Cuomo and his Democrat allies in the Legislature.’
Democrats also turned on the governor. Jumaane Williams, the Public Advocate for New York City, tweeted: ‘To continual defenders of @NYGovCuomo, how is this ok? How is it not #Trump like?
‘And when FORCED into admission, the most you get is a sorry we got caught…and not even directly from him or to the families. All while asking NYers to trust your decisions.’
Another Democrat, state senator Alessandra Biaggi, tweeted: ‘You’re only sorry that you all got caught. Because of your decisions, thousands of people died who did not have to die. We’re not ‘offended’, Melissa, we’re furious – with extremely good reason.’
Janice Dean, a Fox News weathercaster, described Thursday’s report as ‘the biggest bombshell we have had so far’
Cuomo’s pandemic: timeline of the NY governor
MARCH 1: Female nurse, 39, returning from Iran becomes the first in New York to test positive for COVID-19.
MARCH 2: Cuomo gives the first of 111 consecutive daily televised briefings for New Yorkers
MARCH 13: Donald Trump declares national emergency.
MARCH 14: An 82-year-old woman with emphysema is announced as the first patient to die from the virus.
MARCH 17: New York City mayor Bill de Blasio says city should follow San Francisco with a shelter-in-place order; Cuomo says it will be statewide: ‘As a matter of fact, I’m going so far that I don’t even think you can do a statewide policy.’
MARCH 19: California Governor Gavin Newsom issues first statewide lockdown order
MARCH 22: Cuomo signs statewide stay-at-home order.
MARCH 25: Cuomo orders that nursing homes accept convalescent COVID patients back into their facilities.
MAY 10: The nursing home ruling is reversed, to insist on a negative COVID test before return to a nursing home. By now, more than 9,000 people have returned to nursing homes.
AUGUST: Questions begin to be asked about the nursing home policy.
AUGUST 26: Department of Justice opens an investigation into New York’s nursing homes and COVID policy.
OCTOBER 13: Cuomo publishes American Crisis: Leadership Lessons from the COVID-19 Pandemic.
OCTOBER 21: Cuomo announced a policy of isolating identified ‘micro clusters’ of COVID cases.
NOVEMBER 20: Cuomo wins an Emmy ‘in recognition of his leadership during the Covid-19 pandemic and his masterful use of television to inform and calm people around the world’.
JANUARY 28: Attorney General Letitia James released a report finding that New York under-reported the number of deaths among nursing home patients by around 50 per cent, with 15,000 actually dying – not the 8,500 reported.
FEBRUARY 11: Melissa DeRosa, Cuomo’s secretary, admits that in August they ‘froze’ when asked for nursing home data, and dragged their heels on releasing it. The AP reports that more than 9,000 people were returned to nursing homes to recover from COVID in the period March 25-May 10, a figure 40 per cent higher than the official tally.
Janice Dean, the Fox News weathercaster who lost her mother and father-in-law in a New York nursing home, told Hannity on Thursday night: ‘If this guy was a Republican, he would probably be in jail right now.’
Dean earlier told Mark Steyn: ‘This is the biggest bombshell we have had so far.
‘We had a trickling in of the numbers. We knew the numbers were much bigger than the governor was admitting.
‘Over 15,000 residents died from getting COVID in their nursing homes … and now the biggest bombshell coming from the New York Post that his secretary, Melissa DeRosa admitted that they covered it all up.
‘We need to see these people on the stand, with a jury, with us, the people that lost our loved ones, in the audience to see them tell the whole truth and nothing but the truth.
‘Justice needs to be served.
‘We don’t have our loved ones here today, but by God, I am here to be a voice for all of them.’
Dean said she has never been politically vocal, but the issue is deeply ‘personal,’ to her and her family.
‘I have never been a political person in my entire life [but] it affected my family. I’m speaking on behalf of them. It is their 60th wedding anniversary today, Mark, and the angels won.’
She then tweeted: ‘They should all go to jail.’
GOP congresswoman and Trump loyalist Marjorie Taylor Greene was also quick to comment, blasting: ‘Andrew Cuomo has blood on his hands. The Cuomo Coverup led to needless deaths of New Yorkers everyone knew were at risk. And Fredo and CNN helped him hide it while laughing about it!’
Steve Scalise, the Republican House whip, tweeted: ‘There it is. Cuomo’s aide just admitted to covering up nursing home data so federal prosecutors couldn’t find it. Time for federal investigations. Time for prosecutions. Time for JUSTICE.’
He added: ‘The more the truth comes out, the worse it gets for Cuomo.’
Matt Vespa, a senior editor at TownHall.com, called for an urgent investigation.
‘With Biden now president, Cuomo’s people admit what many have already suspected: they intentionally hid the real COVID death toll from nursing homes in a massive cover-up that warrants a federal investigation,’ he said.
‘Biden DOJ should look into this…if they care about law and order.’
And Buck Sexton, a conservative commentator and podcast host, said: ‘Imagine for a moment that a Republican governor- by executive order- sent 9,000 seniors with covid back into nursing homes, causing massive casualties
‘But Cuomo is part of the lib establishment, so they allowed him to cover this up as long as they could.’
Tim Scott, the Republican senator for South Carolina, said: ‘This is unacceptable, & those involved must be held accountable.’
Commentator and podcast host Stephen Miller said: ‘If Cuomo purposely hid nursing home data as his aide claims, it’s not just impeachable, it’s criminal.’
Many agreed, with one man tweeting: ‘Gov Cuomo and all his advisors should be criminally charged and sued by nursing home operators and family members of those who succumbed to COVID in these facilities.’
Another said: ‘I’m at a loss for words. If they don’t resign immediately, it’s time for a recall!!!’