The state revealed the full count — which added thousands of additional deaths — only in January, after a report by the state attorney general suggested an undercount, and after a state court ordered the data be made public in response to a lawsuit filed by the Empire Center, a conservative think tank. As of this month, New York has recorded the deaths of more than 15,000 nursing home residents with Covid-19.
Melissa DeRosa, Mr. Cuomo’s top aide, tried to explain why the administration had withheld the data last year to state lawmakers in a conference call, saying she and others “froze” because of the federal request for data, which came in late August as the governor faced criticism over nursing homes.
Investigators have contacted lawyers for Cuomo’s aides, interviewed senior state Health Department officials and subpoenaed the governor’s office for documents relating to the alleged data coverup, the sources said.
When New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s administration learned last year that the federal government was about to release data on Covid-19 deaths in nursing homes, state officials were concerned: Would the federal numbers tell the public a different story than the state’s own?
….. No other state requested details about the data release, according to the official. The federal health officials on the call described the scope of the data, how it was collected and how it compared with the state’s data.
When it was released, the federal data included fatalities inside both nursing homes and hospitals. But the federal tally of 3,525 deaths was lower than the state’s total of 5,944 because nursing homes weren’t required to report deaths to the federal government from March and April, the deadliest period for the state in the pandemic.
What DeRosa told lawmakers had them aghast. Not only had Cuomo misled them; he had, in DeRosa’s telling, done it in order to keep relevant information hidden from U.S. investigators. If the latter were true, Cuomo administration officials could well be guilty of federal-obstruction and false-statements crimes. In other words, so shameful was their actual reason for covering up nursing-home deaths — namely, to make a wayward governor look like a fantasy hero — that Cuomo administration officials figured it was better to be seen as potentially felonious than to admit their crude political motivation.
As the New York Times reported on Thursday night, in the spring of 2020, DeRosa and other members of Cuomo’s inner circle, who have no public-health background, studiously purged the nursing-home death data from a report compiled by state health officials. The Justice Department was not eyeing them at the time. That happened months later, in August, when the feds began seeking information about the treatment of, and record-keeping about, COVID-stricken nursing-home residents by New York and three other states.
So what was going on at the time of the purge? Well — whaddya know! — it turns out that was just when Cuomo was quietly securing the state ethics approvals that would permit him to earn outside income from a book he’d decided to write. The book would inform the world about his unparalleled mastery of the COVID crisis — which, oddly enough, he contemplated as a work of nonfiction.