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N.Y. Gov. Cuomo faces possible repercussions over care homes’ COVID-19 death count

Published: Feb. 15, 2021 at 2:35 PM EST
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(CNN) - New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo is under fire for allegedly under-reporting the number of COVID-19 deaths at long-term care facilities.

Criticism is coming from both sides of the aisle, and state Republicans are calling for him to be impeached.

“The gravity of this cover-up cannot be overstated,” New York GOP Chairman Nick Langworthy said.

His top aide admitted to withholding data for months that revealed thousands more confirmed and presumed COVID-19 deaths of long-term care facility residents than previously disclosed.

“Throughout the pandemic, between his Emmy for his coronavirus press briefings, to Governor Cuomo’s book, to his speech at the Democratic National Convention, Governor Cuomo has been held up as the model governor in his coronavirus response even though New York was so hard hit by the virus early on,” Emilie Munson of the Albany Times Union said.

According to a transcript of a private video call, Melissa Derosa told Democratic state lawmakers that, in response to questions: “Basically, we froze, because then we were in a position where we weren’t sure if what we were going to give to the Department of Justice or what we give to you guys, what we start saying, was going to be used against us.”

Fourteen Democratic state senators said in a statement Cuomo should be stripped of his emergency powers.

State Republicans echoed their call and went further.

“The Cuomo administration purposely lied and withheld evidence and information to avoid prosecution. Andrew Cuomo must be prosecuted, and Andrew Cuomo must be impeached if this evidence exists,” Langworthy said.

Some 15,000 people died in facilities like nursing homes died, according to the Department of Health, about a third of all COVID-19 deaths statewide.

The true death toll was revealed after New York Attorney General and Cuomo ally Letitia James issued a scathing report last month accusing the state of under-counting deaths in these facilities by some 50 percent by only publicly reporting those who died on site - not residents who were admitted to hospitals and died there or elsewhere.

“Whether a person died in the hospital or died in a nursing home, it’s -- the -- people died. I wish none of it happened. I wish there was no COVID. I wish no old people died,” Cuomo said.

He has faced criticism over a March 2020 state health department advisory that required nursing homes to admit and readmit patients with COVID-19, something critics say may have further fueled the outbreak in facilities.

Cuomo has said the policy was in line with federal guidance.

“It was the absolute worst decision anybody could make in a time of a pandemic,” said Daniel Arbeeny, whose father died of COVID-19.

The controversial directive was scrapped in May.

The Associated Press reported more than 9,000 recovering coronavirus patients in New York were transferred to nursing homes from hospitals early in the pandemic.

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