Gov. Cuomo: It’s ‘a lie to say’ nursing home death numbers ‘were inaccurate’

A defiant New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) on Friday derided reports and allegations that his administration severely downplayed the number of coronavirus-related deaths in nursing homes and hid the numbers to avoid a federal investigation, saying that it’s “a lie to say any numbers were inaccurate.”

“It is a lie to say any numbers were inaccurate,” Cuomo told reporters at a Friday press conference. “That is a lie. Total deaths were always reported to nursing homes and hospitals.”

“I’m not going to let New Yorkers be lied to,” Cuomo also said. “I’m not going to let you hurt New Yorkers by lying about what happened surrounding the death of a loved one.”

In recent weeks, the administration revealed that 15,000 long-term care residents have died, up from the 8,500 previously disclosed, according to NBC News.

It was first reported Wednesday by The Albany Times Union that, following reports about the numbers, the FBI and the U.S. attorney in Brooklyn have begun a preliminary investigation into how Cuomo’s administration handled data about COVID-19 nursing home deaths.

Late last month, state Attorney General Letitia James (D) released a report showing that the number of nursing home deaths “may have been undercounted by as much as 50%

On top of that, a February 11 New York Post exposé reported that Cuomo’s top aide, Melissa DeRosa, had privately admitted to Democratic lawmakers that the administration withheld death data out of fear that it would be “used against us” by federal prosecutors.

Furthermore, state Assemblyman Ron Kim (D) claimed to The New York Post on Wednesday that Cuomo recently threatened him over the phone, warning Kim that he would be “destroyed” if he did not help contain the damage over his alleged cover-up of nursing home deaths. Cuomo’s senior advisor, Richard Azzopardi, denied Kim’s story and accused the Queens assemblyman of lying.

Adding more fuel to the fire, a study released Thursday by the nonprofit Empire Center for Public Policy, according to The Post, tied “several hundred and possibly more than 1,000” nursing home deaths to a since-rescinded March 25, 2020 directive that controversially ordered nursing homes to accept COVID-19 patients during the pandemic’s early stage.

A quickly growing number of state and federal politicians on both sides of the aisle are calling either for a full investigation into Cuomo’s administration, stripping him of his pandemic-related emergency powers, or removing him from office entirely.

Friday afternoon, in a major development, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) joined the calls for a “full investigation.”

“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,” she wrote in a statement, according to The Post.

You can follow Douglas Braff on Twitter @Douglas_P_Braff.

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