Democrats in the New York State Assembly will weigh rescinding Governor Cuomo’s emergency powers as one of his top aides attempts to walk back her stunning admission that the administration covered up the true number of COVID nursing home deaths in order to avoid being attacked by the Trump administration.
The Democratic lawmakers plan to hold a conference Friday morning to discuss stripping the governor of the emergency powers granted to him last year when the pandemic began, local news outlet NY1 reported.
Secretary to the Governor Melissa DeRosa recently admitted that the Cuomo administration covered up the real data on coronavirus nursing home deaths in New York in order to hide the magnitude of the issue from federal authorities, the New York Post reported.
She apologized to state Democratic lawmakers during a recent video conference call, saying “we froze” out of fear that the true death toll would “be used against us” by federal prosecutors.
The state had been tabulating the deaths of nursing home residents who died after being transported to the hospital as hospital deaths, making it difficult to ascertain the actual number of residents who died.
In September, the state Senate sought to obtain more accurate numbers from the state health department about the number of nursing home patients who died from the virus. Around the same time, former President Trump turned New York’s nursing home deaths into “a giant political football” and urged the Justice Department to investigate the administration, and “basically, we froze,” DeRosa said.
“So we do apologize,” DeRosa told the New York Democratic lawmakers. “I do understand the position that you were put in. I know that it is not fair. It was not our intention to put you in that political position with the Republicans.”
On Friday, DeRosa attempted to clarify her remarks, saying that she was simply “explaining that when we received the DOJ inquiry, we needed to temporarily set aside the Legislature’s request to deal with the federal request first.”
“We informed the houses of this at the time,” DeRosa said in a statement. “We were comprehensive and transparent in our responses to the DOJ, and then had to immediately focus our resources on the second wave and vaccine rollout.”
However, a bipartisan group of New York lawmakers is already calling for a thorough investigation of the matter, and some have called for Cuomo to be criminally prosecuted. Some Democrats have specifically urged the legislature to reconsider allowing Cuomo’s emergency powers, granted to him in March.
New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio, who often spars with Cuomo on local issues, said he agrees “100 percent” with stripping Cuomo of emergency powers.
State Senator Andrew Gornardes, a Democrat, said Cuomo committed a “betrayal of the public trust” and urged the legislature to “reconsider its broad grant of emergency powers to the governor.”
“There needs to be full accountability for what happened,” Gornardes wrote in a tweet.
Cuomo traveled to Washington on Friday to meet with President Joe Biden about the Democrats’ COVID relief bill as backlash against the nursing home coverup mounted.