If Cuomo won’t allow outside review of NY nursing home COVID-19 horror, he admits guilt

Will Gov. Andrew Cuomo allow anything resembling an outside review of New York’s coronavirus nursing-home horrors? The test case is a bipartisan bill from state Sen. Jim Tedisco and Assemblyman Ron Kim.

At the height of the pandemic, the state’s March 25 mandate put infected patients among the elderly — who Cuomo has acknowledged are the most vulnerable to the virus. The gov insists any criticism of that order is pure politics.

The bill calls for an independent investigation to, as sponsors put it, “fully examine policies that led to the deaths of thousands of New Yorkers in nursing-home facilities” during the pandemic.

Team Cuomo has stonewalled all efforts to get answers, and lawmakers are furious.

“Some issues transcend partisan politics,” said Tedisco (R-Glenville), and the needless deaths of thousands is one of them.

“Don’t be publishing a damn book right now. Take responsibility for what is happening,” an exasperated Sen. Gustavo Rivera (D-Bronx) fumed at this week’s Empire Report forum on the issue.

One key point: Cuomo officials won’t provide data on nursing-home residents who died in hospitals. “If you die in the nursing home, it’s a nursing-home death. If you die in the hospital, it’s called a hospital death,” Cuomo told WAMC Radio in defending the decision to stop giving a public count of the latter — though New York is the only significant state to keep that info secret.

“It seems, sir . . . you are choosing to define it differently so that you can look better,” Rivera told Health Commissioner Howard Zucker at an Aug. 3 hearing.

Zucker admitted the state has both numbers — but refused to provide even a rough estimate when lawmakers demanded one. Weeks later, he still hasn’t shared the data.

The bipartisan bill isn’t perfect. The five members of its commission would be appointed by the Senate majority and minority leaders, the Assembly speaker and minority leader and the state attorney general. The Democratic leaders almost never cross Cuomo, while AG Letitia James owes her position to his sponsorship. That makes for a real risk of a whitewash.

That the gov pulled the mandate in May suggests he knows it was a deadly error. The virus killed at least 6,400 nursing-home residents — and the real number, the one Zucker refuses to reveal, could be twice that.

The people of New York deserve answers. If Cuomo and his allies don’t even allow this commission to look for them, it’s compelling proof of guilt.

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