“More than just a scandal”: Lawmakers demand answers in nursing home COVID death controversy

Coronavirus


ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WROC) — Local lawmakers are calling for action after a New York Post report claiming Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s top aide admitted the state withheld information about the nursing home death toll from COVID-19.

“I’ve never felt such outrage with the governor,” says Senator Robert Ortt, R-62nd District. “This is more than just a scandal.”

Ortt says a full investigation needs to be launched immediately to determine if any crimes were committed in covering up the true number of COVID-related nursing home deaths in-state. He says the real number could be as high as 15,000 people.  

Ortt is also asking for bi-partisan support to rescind Cuomo’s emergency executive powers.

“I’m calling upon the Department of Justice, and Attorney General James to investigate Governor Cuomo and his administration from top to bottom,” Ortt said.

Those calls today are getting louder from leaders across the state, including Democrats. 

“I’m angry, I’m frustrated…but I can’t tell you I’m shocked,” says Senator Jeremy Cooney, D-56th.

Cooney says for months, he’s been getting questions from concerned Rochester residents who have loved ones in nursing homes.

“I have joined with about 14 state senators in the Democratic majority,” says Cooney.

Senator Samra Brouk, D-55th, is one of them.

“What we have learned about the governor’s handling of nursing home data is unacceptable,” she said in a statement released Friday. She also said Cuomo’s emergency powers to handle this pandemic are no longer needed.

“There is not a level of trust between the citizens of this State, and his team, and his departments running this operation,” says Cooney.

Cooney says he wants his colleagues to know the time for action is now.

“We have just learned that there is no transparency when it comes to information,” he said. “Now is the time not just to point fingers, but to actually get information that people have been asking for, for a long time.”

Cooney says an order to rescind those emergency powers will require a majority vote in the State Senate and a similar type vote in the Assembly. Those powers are currently due to expire in April.

Friday, Cuomo’s top aide said on the phone conversation, “I was 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.”

In another reply, the Governor’s office said Friday:

“We explained that the Trump administration was in the midst of a politically motivated effort to blame democratic states for COVID deaths and that we were cooperating with Federal document productions and that was the priority and now that it is over we can address the state legislature,” said Senior Advisor Rich Azzopardi. “That said, we were working simultaneously to complete the audit of information they were asking for.”

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