Governor Cuomo's administration faced fresh criticism Thursday night after a story in the New York Post saying a top aide to the governor admitted to withholding the state's nursing home death data over concerns regarding any federal investigation.
The Post got a hold of an audio recording of a conference call between state Democratic leaders and Melissa DeRosa, the Secretary to the Governor. In it, the New York Post alleges DeRosa told Democratic leaders "we froze" when it came to providing them additional requested nursing home data over concerns brought about by comments from then-President Donald Trump. That legislative request came in September.
New York Post | Cuomo aide admits they hid nursing home data so feds wouldn’t find out
On August 26, 2020, the Department of Justice requested data from governors in New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and Michigan regarding COVID-19 responses in public nursing homes. According to the Post, DeRosa wasn't sure if the information provided to the Department of Justice or to democratic state lawmakers would be used against the state.
Senator Rachel May, of the 53rd district covering most of the city of Syracuse, was a part of that meeting. She is the State Senate Aging Committee Chairwoman. The Post says Senator May questioned DeRosa's explanation, talking about needing public trust in a pandemic. It's a sentiment she reflected Thursday in an interview with CNY Central prior to the publishing of the New York Post story.
"I don't want to say they've been being dishonest necessarily, but they've been being cagey in a way that doesn't inspire confidence," said Senator May. "I think in a public health emergency we should have confidence in our public health officials."
Senator May offered an explanation of the meeting to CNY Central as well.
"They did explain this that the exact same time that we sent them those questions was when the Trump administration said they were gonna do a federal investigation of New York State and nursing homes," Senator May started. "Suddenly for good reason, they were hesitant to release any information unless they had it exactly right. And you know, they still could have met with us, behind closed doors and explained that to us then instead of now but whatever."
Senator May went on to evaluate what's next.
"This is where we are," she said. "I think the conditions are different now and there's a federal administration that is helping rather than hurting NY in its public health efforts."
The New York Attorney General released a bombshell report last month saying the state nursing home data may have undercounted the number of deaths linked to nursing homes by as much as 50 percent.
This new information regarding the meeting emerged Thursday as the Associated Press reported more than 9,000 recovering coronavirus patients in New York State were released from hospitals into nursing homes under the state directive. That's according to new records the AP obtained. That number is more than 40% higher than what was previously released by the state health department.
The governor's spokesperson Richard Azzopardi put out a statement on Twitter following the New York Post story. He wrote, "We explained that the Trump administration was in the midst of a politically motivated effort to blame democratic states for COVID deaths and that we were cooperating with Federal document productions and that was the priority and now that it is over we can address the state legislature. That said. we were working simultaneously to complete the audit of information they were asking for."