COVID-19 Nursing home answers needed
The OBSERVER's View
Democrats in the state Legislature have been unwilling to use their power to investigate what happened inside the state’s nursing homes during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Maybe the admission of a cover-up will be enough to spur Democrats into action.
Late Thursday night, the New York Post reported that an aide to Gov. Andrew Cuomo admitted to Democrats in the state Legislature that the state hid the death toll from COVID-19 in nursing homes because it was feared President Donald Trump would use the numbers against the state in court. The Post was given a tape recording of the phone call between Cuomo aide Melissa DeRosa and Democratic lawmakers.
“And basically, we froze,” DeRosa told lawmakers, according to the Post. “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 while we weren’t sure if there was going to be an investigation. That played a very large role into this.”
Regardless of the Cuomo Administration’s reasons for withholding the information, it should be obvious for lawmakers to use subpoena power for both nursing home data and related communications. Sen. James Skoufis, D-Newburgh and chair of the Committee on Investigations, dismissed that request two weeks ago, saying Letitia James, state attorney general, and Dr. Howard Zucker, state health commissioner, had provided enough numbers to give legislators a good sense of the issue. Skoufis said he preferred to see what numbers Zucker released between the committee hearing and the Feb. 25 budget hearing. Skoufis then said the call for subpoenas was politically motivated.
“Now it seems to be, ‘Alright, he’s forthright with the numbers, but we’ve got an agenda so let’s move forward with subpoenas. That is not how this committee operates. I do not operate and this committee does not operate in a political manner. We put subpoenas on the table to get the full nursing home numbers. Most of that information has now been handed over in light of the pressure, I believe, that many of us and the Attorney General’s report put on the Department of Health.”
Should anyone trust the Cuomo administration to turn over anything on their own in the wake of the Post report? What else is there that the governor and his administration aren’t telling us?
Issue the subpoenas. Let’s get to the bottom of this mess.