In a remarkable confession made during a conference call with New York state Democrats, obtained by
Her mea culpa came shortly before the Associated Press published new detail into how many patients recovering from COVID were sent back into nursing homes. They found more than 9,000 readmittances – a figure 40 per cent higher than official data.
In January, the AP reported that the death toll from COVID among nursing home patients was 15,000 – an increase almost 50 per cent higher than the official statistics.
Cuomo’s handling of nursing homes during the pandemic is under intense scrutiny.
Melissa DeRosa (left), secretary to Andrew Cuomo (right), admitted that they ‘froze’
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
On March 25 he ordered nursing homes to readmit COVID-positive patients, due to concerns about space in hospitals. He later reversed the ruling, on May 10, barring nursing homes from accepting COVID-19 patients without a negative test first.
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 – which saw 9,000 people readmitted to their care homes – cost thousands of lives.
Some states, including Connecticut, set up COVID 19-only nursing homes relatively early on.
DeRosa, 38, is seen as Cuomo’s right-hand
Cuomo has been repeatedly asked for more details, for months, but has dodged the questions.
Last month it emerged that 15,000 people in nursing homes had died of COVID-19 – a huge increase on the official figure of 8,500.
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.
In the call on Thursday, DeRosa admitted they deliberately hid the data, after the Trump administration began asking questions.
State Democrats asked for the data in August, ‘right around the same time, [then-President Donald 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.’
DeRosa admitted in the Thursday call that, in the spotlight, the Cuomo government ‘froze’
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’.
Relatives of nursing home COVID victims and critics of Cuomo were outraged at the news.
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.’
She tweeted: ‘They should all go to jail.’
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.’