New York state’s embattled health commissioner refused on Thursday to say who in Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s administration ordered that the number of nursing home residents who died of COVID-19 in hospitals be kept under wraps.
During a virtual budget hearing, Dr. Howard Zucker was questioned by state Sen. Tom O’Mara (R-Elmira) about why he “stonewalled” lawmakers and the Empire Center for Public Policy after they formally requested the data.
“Commissioner, whose decision was it to not release the records?” O’Mara asked.
But instead of answering directly, Zucker deflected the point-blank question.
“The details and the specifics of how this came to pass is the subject of an ongoing investigation and when a full determination has been made… it will be released to the public,” he said.
Zucker again cited the “ongoing investigation” when O’Mara followed up with questions about whether Zucker had received any subpoenas, including to testify before a federal grand jury.
“I’m going back to the same issue that I’m saying that there’s a federal inquiry process is going on,” Zucker said.
Zucker also claimed that “I will have a comment” once the probe is finished.
“But right now, this is a — an investigation that our legal team will address,” he added.
Earlier in the hearing, Zucker used the same excuse when asked by Sen. Sue Serino (R-Hyde Park) why he wouldn’t support an independent probe of his actions if he was “confident in the facts you’re presenting today.”
“There is an ongoing investigation into this issue and I’ll leave it at that,” Zucker said.
Zucker didn’t specify what federal agency was conducting the probe.
But sources familiar with the matter last week told The Post that the FBI and the Brooklyn US Attorney’s Office had opened an investigation into the Cuomo administration’s actions related to nursing homes and other long-term care facilities.
That investigation was reportedly launched after The Post earlier this month revealed remarks that Cuomo’s top aide, Secretary to the Governor Melissa DeRosa, made to Democratic lawmakers during a video conference call on Feb. 10.
During the meeting, DeRosa said Cuomo’s administration withheld the total number of nursing home residents killed by COVID-19 from legislators and the public due to a pending probe by federal prosecutors.
“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,” DeRosa said.