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Representative Alexandria Ocasio Cortez (D., N.Y.) on Friday called for a full investigation into New York Governor Andrew Cuomo’s handling of nursing homes during the coronavirus pandemic after a watchdog report revealed his policies may have caused up to 1,000 more deaths among elderly residents.
“I support our state’s return to co-equal governance and stand with our local officials calling for a full investigation of the Cuomo administration’s handling of nursing homes during COVID-19,” Ocasio Cortez said in a statement. “Thousands of vulnerable New Yorkers lost their lives in nursing homes throughout the pandemic. Their loved ones and the public deserve answers and transparency from their elected leadership, and the Secretary to the Governor’s remarks warrant a full investigation.”
Cuomo had instituted a policy from March to May of last year that forced nursing homes to accept coronavirus-positive patients after they were discharged from hospitals. Earlier this week he defended that decision, claiming that it was not sick residents who spread the virus within the nursing homes amid New York’s first wave in the spring, but visitors and staff.
Meanwhile, the nonprofit Empire Center for Public Policy found that Cuomo’s directive was “associated with” more than one in six of the 5,780 nursing home deaths that occurred in New York state between the end of March and the beginning of May, according to a report released Thursday using information from the state health department.
A growing number of New York lawmakers have called for investigations into Cuomo’s actions during the pandemic after Secretary to the Governor Melissa DeRosa reportedly admitted recently that the administration covered up data on nursing home deaths to hide the severity of the situation from federal authorities.
DeRosa apologized to state Democratic lawmakers during a recent video conference call, saying “we froze” out of fear that the real nursing home death numbers would “be used against us” by federal prosecutors, the New York Post reported.
Lawmakers of both parties have called for Cuomo to be stripped of the emergency powers granted to him last year at the beginning of the pandemic following DeRosa’s comments and a report issued by the New York Attorney General Letitia James which found that the state had undercounted nursing home deaths by as much as 50 percent.
In a virtual news conference on Friday, Cuomo pushed back, vowing to “take on the lies and the unscrupulous actors” who are causing “pain and damage to New York.”
“I’m not going to let you hurt New Yorkers by lying about what happened. Surrounding the death of a loved one,” he said.
The comments come after Cuomo on Monday blasted state lawmakers who have threatened to rescind his emergency powers and open investigations into his administration’s coverup of its mishandling of nursing home coronavirus deaths.
“You can’t use a subpoena or the threat of investigation to leverage a person,” Cuomo said in a briefing. “That’s a crime, it’s called abuse of process, it’s called extortion.”
New York State Senator Jessica Ramos, a Democrat, previously called for Cuomo and his administration to be subpoenaed for “all of the pertinent information” relating to nursing home coronavirus deaths along with a “full investigation.”
“At a time when we need New Yorkers to trust their elected officials the most, the Governor and his administration knowingly chose to lie and play politics with New Yorkers’ lives,” Ramos said in a statement. “This news is another slap in the face to the many New Yorkers still grieving the loss of their loved ones across our state.”