Andrew Cuomo, Governor of New York, in January.
Hans Pennink / Associated Press
Three months ago, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo was awarded an Emmy for “his leadership during the Covid-19 pandemic and his masterful use of television to inform and reassure people around the world”. It turned out that the Emmys had the right actor – but the wrong performance. Increasingly, it looks like Mr. Cuomo’s real act was to keep people from finding out how many people died of Covid-19 in his state’s nursing homes.
On Thursday, the New York Post reported that Melissa DeRosa, the governor’s top adviser, admitted To the democratic leaders that the state has deliberately withheld the true numbers from them. In a conference call Wednesday, Ms. DeRosa told Democrats that the Cuomo administration rejected a legislative proposal on the numbers last August because Donald Trump tweeted that “we all killed in nursing homes” and “the Justice Department directed one Conduct investigation us. “
As Ms. DeRosa put it: “Basically we were frozen.” The government is not sure whether any information it has passed on to lawmakers or the Justice Department will “be used against us” or “whether an investigation will take place”.
Nursing home deaths are a sensitive issue for Mr Cuomo as a March 25 policy from the Department of Health prevented those homes from turning down people for having Covid-19. The Associated Press reports that 9,056 patients who had recovered were admitted to nursing homes under the directive, more than 40% more than previously reported by the state.
In January, Attorney General Letitia James released one report via an investigation into complaints about how nursing homes have dealt with Covid-19. Two results stand out. First, that “a greater number of nursing home residents have died from COVID-19 than”, the official data reflected. Second, that the March 25 policy that “Mandatory Admission of COVID-19 Patients to Nursing Homes has increased the risk to residents in some facilities and may have obscured the data available to assess that risk”.
Perhaps many decisions back then that look bad today were made in good faith. But as is the case according to the attorney general’s report, Ms. DeRosa smells like cover-up that the Cuomo administration hid the deaths in nursing homes. Meanwhile, New Yorkers, especially those who lost loved ones in nursing homes to the pandemic, are still lacking an honest account of what went wrong and why.
Mr. Cuomo dominates New York State politics, dismissing critics and punishing opponents without challenge. Republicans are a trunk minority in the legislature in a one-party state like California and Illinois.
That leaves the job of accountability to others. The question now is whether the Albany Democrats have what it takes to get the job done and hold hearings on the cover-up, whether prosecutors and federal prosecutors are investigating and prosecuting if requested, and whether the media, Mr Cuomo through his Covid-19 press conferences will keep him on the same level as Mr. Trump?
Wunderland: When progressives single out threats to “our democracy”, they mean their democracy. Pictures: Everett Collection / AFP / Getty Images Composite: Mark Kelly
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Published in the print edition on February 13, 2021.