ALBANY, N.Y. (AP) — New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s top aide has told Democratic lawmakers that the administration took months to release data on the coronavirus death toll among nursing home residents because officials “froze” over worries that information was “going to be used against” them.
That's according to a Democratic lawmaker who attended the Wednesday meeting and a partial transcript provided to The Associated Press by the governor’s office.
“Basically, we froze 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 and what we start saying was going to be used against us, and we weren’t sure if there was going to be an investigation,” secretary to the governor Melissa DeRosa told the Democratic leaders Wednesday, according to the AP.
“That played a very large role into this,” DeRosa added, saying the administration had asked legislative leaders whether it could “pause on getting back to everybody until we get through this period and we know what’s what with the DOJ.”
Republicans are calling for resignations of both Cuomo and DeRosa. Progressive Democrats are blasting the Cuomo administration for its lack of transparency.
DeRosa says she was just trying to explain that the administration had to put lawmakers' request on hold while responding to a federal inquiry.
“We were comprehensive and transparent in our responses to the DOJ, and then had to immediately focus our resources on the second wave and vaccine rollout,” wrote DeRosa in a statement. “As I said on a call with legislators, we could not fulfill their request as quickly as anyone would have liked. But we are committed to being better partners going forward as we share the same goal of keeping New Yorkers as healthy as possible during the pandemic."
DeRosa’s comments come as Cuomo and his team face backlash over their handling of outbreaks in nursing home and their reported lack of transparency on the matter. The state previously reported about 8,500 nursing home resident deaths, when it was closer to 15,000. The first number excluded residents who died after being taken to hospitals, AP reports.