In an extraordinary turn of events, Melissa DeRosa—the highest-ranking aide to Gov. Andrew Cuomo—recently apologized to Democratic members of the New York State Legislature, acknowledging that the Cuomo administration had refused to share full and complete information on COVID-19 deaths of nursing home residents. Worse yet, DeRosa reportedly admitted that the administration’s refusal to share such information was based on political considerations.
According to the New York Post, a recording of a video conference with Democratic leaders shows DeRosa admitting that the Cuomo administration “‘froze’” last year due to the prospect of negative attention from then-President Donald Trump and the potential for a Department of Justice investigation if the administration provided full responses to information requests from the Legislature and others regarding COVID-19 nursing home deaths. (The administration had provided some figures on COVID-19 deaths in nursing homes, but had declined to include information on how many nursing home residents died of COVID-19 after being admitted to hospitals.) DeRosa added, “‘So 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.’”
In recent days, the Cuomo administration has finally released additional information on COVID-19 deaths of nursing home residents. It has done so only in response to a court order that followed months of litigation in which the administration fought to keep that information from being made public. The latest available data shows that 13,297 nursing home residents have died from COVID-19; if assisted living facility residents are included in the total, the total number is 15,049.
Jason J. McGuire, Executive Director of New Yorkers for Constitutional Freedoms (NYCF), made the following remarks:
“The Cuomo cover-up of data on nursing home deaths was reprehensible, but so was Melissa DeRosa’s ‘apology.’ Apparently, DeRosa is not sorry about the Cuomo administration’s cover-up, or about the March 2020 DOH directive that contributed to the spread of the coronavirus in nursing homes. She is only sorry that the cover-up made life difficult for other Democratic politicians. These remarks reflect the cynical, self-absorbed, and tone-deaf attitude that permeates the Cuomo administration from the top down. Public officials should always choose the people they serve over political self-preservation. In response, the State Legislature should use its subpoena power to demand answers about the full scope and impact of the cover-up. Families suffering the loss of a loved one as a result of the Cuomo directive and the Administration’s callous response deserve nothing less.”
Calls to rescind the extraordinary emergency powers the Legislature gave to the Governor at the beginning of the pandemic quickly escalated Friday. Fourteen Senate Democrats joined the twenty-seat Republican Minority in calling for an end to Cuomo’s pandemic powers. The GOP has been demanding this action for months. Now, the effort is bipartisan.