Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez on Friday joined a chorus of state and local officials demanding a probe of New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo's catastrophic response to the coronavirus pandemic in the Empire State's nursing homes.
"I... stand with our local officials calling for a full investigation of the Cuomo administration's handling of nursing homes during Covid-19," the prominent Democratic lawmaker, who represents New York's 14th Congressional District, said in a statement released Friday.
Ocasio-Cortez added that remarks made earlier this month by Secretary to the Governor Melissa DeRosa, Cuomo's top aide, "warrant a full investigation."
In a video conference call with state Democratic legislators last week, DeRosa admitted that the administration withheld data on coronavirus deaths in nursing homes because Cuomo, a Democrat, feared the full picture would "be used against us" in a federal investigation by then-President Donald Trump's Justice Department.
DeRosa's remarks came two weeks after New York Attorney General Letitia James, also a Democrat, released a report accusing the Cuomo administration of undercounting Covid-19 deaths in nursing homes by as much as 50%. As Axios reported, Cuomo shrugged off James' allegations, saying: "Who cares [if they] died in the hospital, died in a nursing home? They died."
Cuomo, who in October 2020 published a self-congratulatory book about his response to the pandemic, "has dismissed claims of wrongdoing," The Guardian reported Friday. The governor said "information was not produced fast enough, which created 'a void. And conspiracy theories and politics and rumors fill that void and you can't allow inaccurate information to go unanswered.'"
As Common Dreams reported Thursday, Cuomo has publicly lashed out at—and reportedly threatened to "destroy"—state Assemblyman Ron Kim, one of the few Democratic lawmakers willing to criticize the powerful governor months ago over his disastrous approach to nursing homes during the pandemic.
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In July of last year, Kim demanded the creation of an independent, bipartisan panel to investigate the Cuomo administration's handling of long-term care facilities during the coronavirus crisis. The assemblyman also called on the governor to be fully transparent about the Covid-19 death toll in New York's nursing homes, which he and other lawmakers believed was being significantly undercounted by the state government.
As Common Dreams reported in May 2020, Cuomo was widely criticized for taking two months to revoke the New York state health department's directive, issued last March, requiring nursing homes to accept still-recovering Covid-19 patients despite the lethal risk they posed to other vulnerable residents in long-term care facilities.
DeRosa's comments have not only vindicated Kim and other early critics but also led to allegations of a cover-up and growing scrutiny of the administration.
The Cuomo administration now finds itself at the center a full-fledged investigation by the FBI and U.S. attorney's office for the Eastern District of New York, the Albany Times-Union reported Wednesday.
In addition, Democratic leaders of the New York State Senate are beginning efforts to repeal Cuomo's "unilateral emergency powers granted during the pandemic, setting up a remarkable rebuke for the governor from members of his own party," the New York Times reported Wednesday.
Ocasio-Cortez's intervention puts even more pressure on Cuomo.
"Thousands of vulnerable New Yorkers lost their lives in nursing homes throughout the pandemic," the progressive congresswoman said. "Their loved ones and the public deserve answers and transparency from their elected leadership."