(CNN) — New York Governor Andrew Cuomo is at the center of a growing controversy over nursing home deaths, how they were counted and how requests for that data were handled.
Cuomo was praised early in the pandemic for his frank press conferences and his fervent pleas for more medical equipment from the federal government. He published a book in October titled American crisis: leadership lessons from the covid-19 pandemic.
Now, however, Cuomo faces bipartisan calls for an investigation and limitations on his executive powers after a senior adviser said the administration delayed releasing data on COVID-19 deaths of long-term care facility residents because of to concerns about a possible federal investigation by the Trump administration, at a time when the then-president was personally threatening Cuomo.
At the heart of the matter is the question of whether New York could have prevented the state’s nearly 46,000 deaths, the second-highest total of any state in the United States thus far. And if the decision to discharge recovering residents from hospitals to nursing homes led to an increase in infections among the vulnerable elderly.
Here’s what you need to know about the controversy.
Why was the controversy with Governor Andrew Cuomo?
State Attorney General Letitia James issued a report in January in which she found that the New York State Department of Health underestimated COVID-19 deaths among nursing home residents by about 50%, essentially by omit the deaths of residents who had been transferred to hospitals.
James also said at the time that some nursing homes had reported some resident deaths at their facilities.
The report preliminarily concluded that deaths were not reported, based on a survey of 62 nursing homes, roughly a sample of 10% of all facilities statewide.
In the report, the attorney general detailed a facility where up to 29 deaths were not reported to the Health Department.
In a statement in response to the report, New York State Health Commissioner Dr. Howard Zucker noted that there was an overall undercount, claiming it was just a ranking issue.
The Department “has always publicly reported the number of deaths within hospitals regardless of the patient’s residence, and separately reported the number of deaths within nursing home facilities and has been clear about the nature of that report.” Zucker said at the time.
Cuomo has said that the questions about the killings began as a “political attack.”
“What I would say is that everyone did the best they could,” Cuomo said during a news conference on January 29. “When I say that the state Department of Health, as the report says, the state Department of Health followed federal guidance. So if you think there was a mistake, go talk to the federal government. It’s not about pointing fingers or blaming. It is that this became a political right of football. Look, if a person died in a hospital or died in a nursing home. They are people who died. People who died.
How did the matter escalate?
One of Cuomo’s top advisers, Melissa DeRosa, told state lawmakers, in a private virtual meeting This month, the government delayed the release of data on COVID-19 deaths among residents of long-term care facilities due to concerns about a possible federal investigation.
DeRosa specifically said the government “froze” on requests for data from state lawmakers because it was concerned last summer by Trump’s criticism and was not sure what information it would release after a request from the Justice Department. of the United States, related to an investigation into deaths in nursing homes from covid-19 in the state.
“The letter arrives at the end of August and, around the same time, President Trump turns this into a giant political scandal. Start Tweeting We Killed Everybody In Nursing Homes, Start Going After The [gobernador de Nueva Jersey, Phil] Murphy, begins to chase the [gobernador de California Gavin] Newsom begins to chase [la gobernadora de Michigan] Gretchen Whitmer, ”DeRosa said, according to a transcript of the call.
In a statement last week, DeRosa sought to clarify his comments on the call with lawmakers.
“I was explaining to them that when we received the inquiry from the Department of Justice, we needed to temporarily set aside the request from the Legislature to serve the federal request first. We inform the parties of this at that time, “he said. “We were comprehensive and transparent in our responses to the Justice Department, and then we had to immediately focus our resources on the second wave and the launch of the vaccine.”
Cuomo himself told a news conference on Monday that the state Department of Health has always reported “fully” all COVID-19 deaths in nursing homes and hospitals before insisting that “there is nothing to investigate. ».
He also took responsibility for what he said was not giving information faster to people who were grieving.
“The vacuum allowed for misinformation and conspiracy, and now people are left with the thought of ‘My loved one had to die’ and that’s a brutal, brutal question to ask a person,” he said. And I want everyone to know that everything was done. Everything was done by the best minds, with the best interest.
What have been the consequences?
New York Democratic leaders are in active discussions to draft a bill to repeal Cuomo’s expanded emergency executive powers.
“There is a push in the direction of removing his powers,” a source told CNN’s Lauren del Valle. A bill is likely to be introduced this week in the state legislature and voted on early next week.
The source said there was support for removing Cuomo’s expanded powers before the aide’s comments were made public, but now “it’s definitely going to happen.”
Cuomo said Monday that there was no connection between the questions about nursing homes and their emergency powers, and said his legal actions on handling Covid-19 are only to protect the public.
“These are public health decisions,” he said. “They are not local political decisions and must be made on the basis of public health.”
Other lawmakers are calling for an investigation into the episode, and the chairman of the state Republican Party has called for Cuomo to be indicted.
“The seriousness of this cover-up cannot be overstated,” New York Republican Party Chairman Nick Langworthy said at a recent news conference.
“The Cuomo administration lied on purpose and withheld evidence and information to avoid prosecution,” he continued. “Andrew Cuomo must be prosecuted and Andrew Cuomo must be charged if there is this evidence.”
– CNN’s Dakin Andone, Lauren del Valle, and Eric Levenson contributed to this report.
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism