New York Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s top aide reportedly apologized to Democratic lawmakers for hiding the state’s nursing home COVID-19 death count, according to the New York Post. The Post reports that the aide said the state they “froze” out of fear that the accurate numbers would “be used against us” by federal prosecutors.
Secretary to the Governor Melissa DeRosa admitted this during a video conference call with New York Democratic leaders. She told them that the Cuomo administration rejected a request for the death count in August. The reasoning was that former President Donald Trump would turn the situation into “political football.”
“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 claimed that Trump “directs the Department of Justice to do an investigation into us.”
“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,” she reportedly said. “That played a very large role in this.”
After admitting they withheld information, DeRosa apologized and asked for “a little bit of appreciation of the context.” However, she focused that apology in regards to the political disadvantage she put Democratic lawmakers in.
“So we do apologize,” DeRosa reportedly 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.”
At the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic, New York reported all nursing home residents who died from COVID-19, whether they passed away at the nursing home facility or the hospital. But the state altered the method it recorded patients in nursing homes after a March 25 which mandated that nursing homes admit COVID-19 patients. New York then only counted residents who died while physically present at the facility, according to the Daily Caller.
The Daily Caller News Foundation reported that Cuomo altered they way the state recorded these deaths around May 3.
New York Attorney General Letitia James released a report in late January saying the New York Department of Health undercounted nursing home deaths by as much as 50%.
Cuomo later said during a press conference that it did not matter where these people died.
“Who cares? … died in a hospital, died in a nursing home. They died,” Cuomo said.