Cuomo in Hot Seat After Leaked Call on Nursing Home Stats

Aide Melissa DeRosa admitted to Dem lawmakers 'we froze' on divulging accurate numbers
By Jenn Gidman,  Newser Staff
Posted Feb 12, 2021 1:23 PM CST
Cuomo Aide in Leaked Call: 'We Froze' on Nursing Home Numbers
In this Sept. 14, 2018, file photo, Secretary to the Governor Melissa DeRosa, left, is joined by New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo as she speaks to reporters during a news conference in New York.   (AP Photo/Mary Altaffer, File)

A leaked call has put New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo's team in the hot seat, after one of his top aides told Democratic lawmakers that stats for nursing home deaths from COVID were held back to avoid political attacks from the Trump administration. The New York Post first reported on Wednesday's videoconference, in which Secretary to the Governor Melissa DeRosa apologized to Dems for putting them in a bad position by withholding figures, which eventually showed thousands more long-term care residents had died of the virus than first thought. While initially the death toll was estimated to be 8,700, it has since been revealed more than 15,000 have died or presumably died from COVID. When the DOJ asked for the numbers in August, "we froze," DeRosa said, fearful the data "was going to be used against us." Lawmakers from both parties are now calling for probes, a censure of and stripping of emergency powers from Cuomo, and DeRosa's resignation, per the New York Times.

"This is a betrayal of the public trust," Democratic state Sen. Andrew Gounardes tweeted. "There needs to be full accountability." The take of GOP state Rep. Tom Reed, who's now calling for a federal investigation: "It is time to move past the lies and finally uncover the full truth." In a statement to the Post, a Cuomo spokesman says that "we explained that the Trump administration was in the midst of a politically motivated effort to blame democratic states for COVID deaths" and that the team was "working simultaneously" to get the info to both the DOJ and state Legislature. DeRosa, meanwhile, issued her own statement Friday, insisting her team was as "comprehensive and transparent" as they could've been at the height of the pandemic, when things were chaotic. "I'm just asking for a little bit of appreciation of the context," she noted. (More Andrew Cuomo stories.)

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