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Cuomo Accuses NY Lawmakers of ‘Extortion’ over Calls to Investigate Nursing Home Deaths

Governor Andrew Cuomo (D., N.Y.) holds a COVID-19 briefing in Washington, D.C., May 27, 2020. (Carlos Barria/Reuters)

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo on Monday blasted state lawmakers who have threatened to rescind his emergency powers and open investigations into his administration’s coverup of its mishandling of nursing home coronavirus deaths.

“You can’t use a subpoena or the threat of investigation to leverage a person,” Cuomo said in a briefing on Monday. “That’s a crime, it’s called abuse of process, it’s called extortion.”

He also defended his earlier policy that forced nursing homes to accept coronavirus-positive patients after they were discharged from hospitals, saying that it was not sick residents who spread the virus within the nursing homes amid New York’s first wave in the spring, but visitors and staff.

Of 613 nursing homes in the state, 365 received a COVID-positive patient from the hospital, Cuomo said. Ninety-eight percent of nursing homes that admitted a patient from the hospital already had COVID in their facility before the patient was admitted, he said.

“COVID did not get into the nursing homes from people coming from hospitals,” Cuomo said. “COVID got into the nursing homes by staff walking into the nursing home when we didn’t even know we had COVID. Staff walking into a nursing home even though they were asymptomatic because the national experts all told us you could only spread COVID if you had symptoms and they were wrong.”

“COVID may have been brought into a nursing home because visitors brought it in and didn’t know they were contagious because the guidance was you can only be contagious if you have symptoms: if you’re sneezing, if you’re coughing,” he added. “That turned out to be wrong.”

Cuomo’s comments come as a growing number of New York lawmakers have called for investigations into his handling of the coronavirus pandemic after one of his top aides reportedly admitted that the administration covered up data on nursing home deaths to hide the severity of the situation from federal authorities.

Secretary to the Governor Melissa DeRosa apologized to state Democratic lawmakers during a recent video conference call, saying “we froze” out of fear that the real nursing home death numbers would “be used against us” by federal prosecutors, the New York Post reported.

The backlash was swift, with New York State Senator Jessica Ramos, a Democrat, calling for Cuomo and his administration to be subpoenaed for “all of the pertinent information” relating to nursing home coronavirus deaths along with a “full investigation.”

“At a time when we need New Yorkers to trust their elected officials the most, the Governor and his administration knowingly chose to lie and play politics with New Yorkers’ lives,” Ramos said in a statement. “This news is another slap in the face to the many New Yorkers still grieving the loss of their loved ones across our state.”

Ramos and other lawmakers of both parties have called for Cuomo to be stripped of the emergency powers granted to him last year at the beginning of the pandemic.

“His emergency powers must be rescinded, he and his administration must be subpoenaed for all of the pertinent information, and a full investigation must result in justice for our grieving families,” Ramos said.

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