A Queens lawmaker is calling on state Attorney General Letitia James to investigate Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s office alleged cover-up of the accurate count of nursing home residents killed by the coronavirus.
“I’m very troubled by this development,” Democratic state Sen. Joe Addabbo told The Post Friday.
“The attorney general should conduct a full and complete investigation of what happened here with the nursing homes.”
James previously issued a scathing investigative report of nursing homes that concluded the Cuomo administration low-balled the number of COVID-19 nursing home resident deaths by 50 percent — by excluding those who died in hospitals. Hours later, chastened state officials started released more complete data that increased the death tally by thousands.
Addabbo was referring to published accounts of the Cuomo administration’s admission of scrubbing a higher death count of nursing home residents who died from COVID-19 from a final report issued by the state Health Department last July.
Current law requires the attorney general to obtain a referral from the governor to investigate him or his administration. Lawmakers are pushing to change the rule.
Meanwhile, the head of the state Senate investigations committee called on the Legislature to hold hearings on the allegations of a “falsified nursing home report.”
State Sen. James Skoufis (D-Newburgh) said that the latest explosive revelations show that state Health Commissioner Howard Zucker at minimum was “not honest and forthcoming” when he testified before lawmakers last August about COVID-19 nursing home data.
“Whistleblowers are alleging an official public health report was scrubbed by political appointees for political purposes. This new, disturbing and, if true, highly unethical revelation demands answers and accountability,” said Skoufis, who earlier this week called on Cuomo to resign over the dual sexual harassment and nursing scandals.
“In coordination with my partners on the health and aging committees, I support moving forward with a hearing and exercising the Senate investigation committee’s oversight authority.”
Assembly Health Committee Chairman Richard Gottfried (D-Manhattan) called putting out “false numbers” of nursing home deaths for political reasons “shocking and unconscionable.”
Gottfried said the Cuomo administration has been repeatedly exposed for giving lame excuses for failing to release accurate information on nursing home deaths.
“The Health Department regularly produces massive amounts of detailed COVID-19 data, from case numbers to vaccinations, in nearly real-time when the Governor wants it,” he said.
“They’ve claimed since last summer, including at legislative hearings, that the real death count of nursing home residents was the one thing that was just too complex to produce in a timely manner. We now know what we suspected: that was not true.
“Within six hours of the AG’s report, they put out a number. Within five days of a judge’s order, they produced a whole set of underlying data.
Gottfried noted at a top aide to the governor– as exclusively reported by The Post — claimed they withheld information because of a federal probe that began last August.
“Now it’s clear that they had this data well before that,” Gottfried said.
“Their latest argument is that they hid the data back in the spring of 2020 because it wasn’t precise enough. Maybe they couldn’t say precisely whether the number was, say, 12,200 or 12,700. So they could have said it’s about 12,000. Instead, they put out a plainly false number that they knew was off by about 50% and told New Yorkers that it was the real number.
Gottfried continued, “We now know they forced Health Department professionals to put out these false numbers because the truth was terrible news.
In a statement released Thursday night, Cuomo’s team defended altering the DOH report and removing the higher nursing home resident deaths count.
“The out-of-facility data was omitted after DOH could not confirm it had been adequately verified,” Beth Garvey, special counsel to Cuomo, said.