Kathy Hochul should probe Cuomo’s COVID nursing home scandal, report says


Gov. Andrew Cuomo was toppled by a sexual harassment scandal — but don’t forget about his mishandling of the COVID-19 pandemic in nursing homes, a new report says.

Incoming Gov. Kathy Hochul should order a top-to-bottom probe of the state’s response to the coronavirus pandemic in nursing homes last year under her disgraced boss, Cuomo — the Empire Center for Public Policy study said.

The stinging report by the Empire Center’s Bill Hammond — which also recommends the ouster of Health Commissioner Howard Zucker — recounts the controversy over a Cuomo policy that required nursing homes to admit or re-admit recovering COVID patients discharged from hospitals during the peak of the pandemic last year that critics say contributed to the spread of more infections and deaths.

The analysis — entitled “Like Fire Through Dry Grass” — which is what Cuomo called the spread of COVID among the frail, elderly residents in nursing homes, also explains in great detail how Cuomo and his team deliberately undercounted and covered up the true total of nursing home residents killed by COVID, and even broke the law to block release of the information to the Empire Center, until a judge ordered his team to release it.

“As serious as the sexual harassment allegations are, Cuomo and his team should be held accountable for what happened in the nursing homes. People died and they intentionally lied about the problem for months and months,” Hammond said.

“Hochul needs to clear the air and say, `We will never do that again” and not lie about a public health crisis.”

Issues surrounding the COVID nursing home debacle as well as the alleged use of taxpayer resources to draft Cuomo’s $5.1 million pandemic “leadership” memoir are the subject of investigations by federal prosecutors, Attorney General Letitia James and the Assembly Judiciary Committee.

EMS workers with a COVID patient at Cobble Hill Health Center in Brooklyn on April 18, 2020.
Photo by Justin Heiman/Getty Images

The report said the 16-month “misinformation campaign” included: Misstating how the March 25, 2020, directive requiring nursing homes to accept COVID patients from hospitals worked, omitting thousands of victims from official death counts, rewriting and falsifying a Health Department July 2020 report as part of the cover-up, stonewalling legislative inquiries and withholding data in violation of the Freedom of Information Law.

“The cover-up itself may have cost lives. The governor and his administration withheld facts that could have pointed toward more effective protection of nursing home residents during the second wave that struck in the fall and winter, when thousands more of them died,” the report said.

“At a minimum, they ran the risk of endangering those residents – and corroded the public trust that will be crucial in the face of future pandemics.”

The report said said “this long list of offenses demands thorough investigation” even though Cuomo has announced his resignation over sexual harassment allegations and the Assembly suspended its impeachment proceedings. The Assembly will issue a report on its investigative findings of the governor, which includes his actions on nursing homes.

The reports author Bill Hammond claims that Lt. Gov. Hochul needs to make sure the Cuomo administration is held responsible for the nursing home scandal.
The reports author Bill Hammond claims that soon-to-be. Gov. Kathy Hochul needs to make sure the Cuomo administration is held responsible for the nursing home scandal.
Photo by Michael M. Santiago/Getty Images

The Empire Center analysis advises Hochul to “order the prompt release of all data related to pandemic and particularly nursing homes, commission an independent review of the state’s pandemic response and develop contingency plans and protocols to better protect nursing home residents from future outbreaks.”

“Demand the resignations of all officials involved in withholding records and spreading misinformation during the pandemic, including Commissioner Zucker,” adds Hammond, the report’s author.

The report also recommends that Hochul order the Health Department and other agencies to improve compliance with the Freedom of Information Law and end routine delaying tactics.

Hochul, Cuomo and the Health Department had no immediate comment.

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