Sunday, February 28, 2021

NY reps ask DOJ to subpoena Cuomo on COVID nursing home deaths

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Seven congressmembers from New York are asking the Justice Department to subpoena Gov. Andrew Cuomo for documents on what they are calling his “coverup” of deaths from COVID-19 among nursing home residents.

The group wants acting US Attorney General Monty Wilkinson to seize documents that could provide additional information following a bombshell report released last week by New York’s Democratic Attorney General Letitia James.

James reported that Cuomo’s administration undercounted nursing home deaths by about 50 percent after requiring the facilities to accept infected patients in March.

“The report [from James] reveals that Governor Cuomo and his staff recklessly and knowingly underreported the number of nursing home deaths that occurred after his March Executive Order requiring nursing homes to accept COVID-19 patients,” the representatives write.

The lawmakers, led by Republican Rep.

Chris Jacobs, Lee Zeldin, Nicole Malliotakis, Andrew Gabarino, Tom Reed and John Katko signed the letter. None of the Empire State’s 19 House Democrats joined the request.

“Upon taking office, President Biden pledged that the Department of Justice would be independent, with loyalty only to ‘the law, the Constitution, and the people of this nation, to guarantee justice,’ ” the letter says.

“In that spirit, we respectfully request the Department of Justice issue subpoenas for Governor Cuomo, the Secretary to the Governor, the New York State Commissioner of Health and their staff on all documentation and communications related to their nursing home policies during the COVID-19 pandemic. We also ask for an immediate and thorough update on the Civil Rights Division’s inquiry into New York State’s handling of the COVID-19 crisis in our nursing homes.”

In a vitriolic response to the letter, Cuomo spokesman Richard Azzopardi leveled unsubstantiated allegations against Stefanik, accusing the Harvard University graduate of supporting the fringe QAnon conspiracy theory movement. 

“It’s not [a] surprise this QANON Trump puppet, her treason caucus and their friends want to talk about anything other than the approaching once [sic] month anniversary of the Capitol insurrection that they helped foment and resulted in the death of a police officer.

Maybe someone should investigate what she and the rest of the Trump enablers knew about the organizing and planning of this riot,” he said in an emailed statement.

The Justice Department did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The scale of nursing home deaths remains imprecise. The state attorney general reviewed data from 62 nursing homes and found that 1,914 residents died from COVID-19 — 56 percent more than the 1,229 reported by the state.

The data suggest New York’s total nursing-home death toll could be more than 13,000. The official state tally was 8,711 and didn’t count patients transported to a hospital before their deaths.

The James report forced Health Commissioner Howard Zucker to finally release figures that pushed the total official tally to 12,743 as of Jan. 19.

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The adjusted tally means almost one-third of New York’s more than 43,000 coronavirus deaths were linked to nursing homes, undercutting Cuomo’s claim of effectively managing the crisis.

The second highest number of deaths is in California, with fewer than 42,000 fatalities, California has more than double the number of COVID-19 cases.

The Justice Department under former President Donald Trump was reviewing the situation at nursing homes in New York. In October, The Post reported that the Justice Department was demanding more information from the state after an initial review of data indicated a significant undercount.

The Congress members’ push comes just days after Democrats who control the New York state Senate blocked a motion to subpoena records of the Cuomo administration seeking a fuller accounting of nursing home residents who died from the coronavirus. The motion was made by Sen. Thomas O’Mara, ranking Republican on the Investigations Committee, during a virtual meeting.

And it comes as a state judge found Wednesday that Cuomo’s Health Department broke the law by refusing to provide a government watchdog group with the total nursing home death toll from COVID-19, a judge ruled.

Federal sources told The Post that an initial federal review of two dozen New York nursing homes found that about 400 residents died from COVID-19, one-third more than the approximately 300 deaths disclosed to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

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Why we need to rethink COVID-19 risk as the weather warms up

THIS IS an excerpt from Second Opinion, a weekly roundup of art and medical science information emailed to subscribers every...

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