Assembly GOP wants impeachment commission to look at Cuomo’s handling of Covid in nursing homes

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 19 February 2021 at 10:00 am

ALBANY – The Republican Conference in the State Assembly announced it wants an impeachment commission to look at how Gov. Andrew Cuomo handled the Covid-19 crisis in nursing homes, including if the administration deliberatively withheld data on deaths to mislead the public and federal authorities.

Will Barclay, the Assembly Republican leader from Pulaski, said the conference will begin the process of forming an impeachment commission “to gather facts and evidence surrounding Gov. Cuomo’s handling and subsequent coverup of the Covid-19 crisis in nursing homes.”

Democrats outnumber Republicans by more than 2-to-1 in the 150-member Assembly. Barclay said his conference wants bipartisan support to establish the “Temporary Joint Legislative Committee on Investigating the State’s Response to the COVID-19 Pandemic in Nursing Homes.” The committee’s findings and recommendations would be submitted to the Legislature.

“The Cuomo Administration’s nursing home cover-up is one of the most alarming scandals we’ve seen in state government,” Barclay said in a statement on Thursday. “Intentionally withholding critical information from the public, underreporting fatality numbers by 50 percent and the recent revelation they hid the truth to avoid a federal Department of Justice investigation are among the factors that raise the serious possibility of criminality. It is incumbent upon the Legislature to undertake a comprehensive, bipartisan review of the Cuomo Administration’s policies, decisions and actions on this matter and render a decision on what steps must be taken to hold the governor accountable.”

Cuomo said there hasn’t been a coverup. He acknowledged on Monday his administration was slow in providing information to state legislators about nursing home deaths. He said the mounting criticism he faces is politically motivated and is a disservice to families who lost loved ones in nursing homes due to Covid.

Barclay on Thursday highlighted a report on Jan. 28 from Attorney General Letitia James who said nursing home deaths may have been reported by as much as 50 percent. Cuomo said some nursing home residents died in hospitals and the state counted those as hospital deaths, because that is where the person died.

He disputed his administration undercounted the deaths. The protocol for counting deaths was where the person passed away. If they died in a hospital, those were counted as hospital deaths, not nursing homes. There are nearly 700 nursing homes in the state. The Department of Health has tried to get the data from nursing homes on how many of their residents died in hospitals after getting Covid.

Barclay said the March 25 guidance from state Department of Health, which said nursing homes had to accept Covid-positive patients, contributed to the spread of the disease.

Cuomo said New York was following the advice of the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, just like many other states. Cuomo said the nursing homes didn’t have to accept Covid-positive patients if the facilities didn’t believe they could adequately care for the patients and contain the Covid spread. He said 98 percent of the nursing homes that accepted Covid-positive patients already had residents in the nursing homes with Covid. Cuomo said the spread in the homes was mainly due to asymptomatic staff and visitors.

Assemblyman Mike Norris, R-Lockport, issued a statement on Thursday saying he supports the move to create a commission looking at Cuomo’s handling of nursing home data and whether the governor’s policies contributed to deaths among nursing home residents.

“With 15,000 of our most vulnerable citizens dead, their grieving families deserve answers and justice,” Norris said. “There must be thorough, independent and transparent investigations. It is good news that the FBI and U.S. Attorney for Eastern District of New York have opened investigations, but it would be prudent to appoint a special prosecutor to ensure there are no conflicts of interest. We must find out what are the real facts and get to the bottom of this in order to protect New Yorkers. This must be done expeditiously in order to ensure our government remains honest and transparent, particularly during this extraordinary pandemic.”