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Reed: Cuomo lying about covering up nursing home COVID deaths

Calling it a cover up, U.S. Rep. Tom Reed, R-Corning, said Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo is lying about withholding data on virus-related nursing home deaths in the state.

During his weekly conference call with regional media, Reed said he is pleased the F.B.I. and the U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of New York have opened an investigation into Cuomo’s handling of sending COVID-19 positive patients into nursing homes during the pandemic. Reed said Cuomo’s order directed coronavirus patients into nursing homes, which he said started March 20 and didn’t end until the governor signed an executive order May 11.

Last month, Letita James, state attorney general, released a report stating a larger number of nursing home residents died from COVID-19 than the state Department of Health’s nursing home data reflected. In recent weeks, the administration revealed that 15,000 long-term care residents have died, up from the 8,500 previously disclosed.

“This is a good step in the right direction to demand justice for these 15,000 souls,” Reed said. “I want to tell you … this is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to this situation.”

Reed said he is hopeful the investigation into the nursing home deaths will uncover what Cuomo actually knew and why he ordered positive COVID-19 patients to be sent back into nursing homes instead of being isolated.

“There were other facilities available to isolate COVID-19 patients, so they were a threat to the other negative COVID-19 patients,” he said. “We are not going to give up. This is about justice.”

Following Wednesday’s reveal that Cuomo allegedly threatened Democratic Assemblyman Ron Kim from Queens, Reed was asked if he had ever been threatened by the governor. Kim said Cuomo had vowed to “destroy” him during a private phone call last week for criticism he felt was unfair. Cuomo denied the allegation, then used a call with reporters Wednesday to blast Kim, one of nine Democrats who signed a letter seeking support for the proposal to limit his emergency powers, which are set to expire this spring.

Reed said he has been threatened by Cuomo in the past, so Kim’s accusation didn’t surprise him.

“This is the M.O. of the governor over the years,” Reed said.

The congressman was also asked whether Melissa DeRosa, Cuomo’s top aid, should be arrested.

Last week, DeRosa told Democratic lawmakers that the administration took months to release data revealing how many people living at nursing homes died of COVID-19 because officials “froze “ over worries the information was “going to be used against us.”

Reed said, in his opinion, this is part of the cover-up that not only might lead to the arrest of DeRosa, but Cuomo as well.

“In my opinion, (Cuomo) directed this activity,” Reed said. “He is lying about the cover-up. This is what happens when the house of cards collapses.”

The U.S. Justice Department has also been examining the governor’s coronavirus task force and trying to determine whether the state intentionally manipulated data regarding deaths in nursing homes, two people familiar with the matter told The Associated Press.

The people, who weren’t authorized to discuss the investigation and spoke on condition of anonymity, said the Cuomo administration had not been cooperative with prosecutors, especially in the early stages of the probe, and for months had not produced documents and other data the Justice Department had requested.

The inquiry began months ago in the Justice Department’s civil division, and parts of it have previously been disclosed publicly. On Aug. 26, federal prosecutors gave Cuomo’s administration 14 days to provide data on nursing home deaths. More data was sought in October.

Over the summer, Cuomo’s administration assailed the investigation as politically motivated. The investigation moved back into the public spotlight in recent weeks after revelations that Cuomo’s administration had given the public, and state lawmakers, an incomplete accounting of the number of deaths at nursing homes and assisted living facilities.

Cuomo’s senior advisor, Rich Azzopardi, said Wednesday that it wasn’t true that the administration had withheld records from the Justice Department, though he acknowledged that some data requested in October had taken time to collect and produce.

Meanwhile, Cuomo is dealing with a fresh challenge in the state Senate, where top Democrats prepare to vote in the coming days on a proposal that would require the governor to consult with legislators before issuing emergency orders. Cuomo has used those powers, granted to him last spring, to limit public gatherings, close businesses and schools, and then unilaterally loosen those restrictions when he felt it would help the state.

Cuomo said earlier this week the state didn’t cover up deaths, but should have moved faster to release information.

The Associated Press contributed to this story.

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