Gov. Cuomo on nursing home controversy: 'It's a lie to say any numbers were inaccurate'
Gov. Andrew Cuomo was on the defensive Friday, denying that his administration released misinformation on nursing home deaths during the height of the pandemic.
Cuomo and state Health Commissioner Howard Zucker spent over an hour of their Friday news conference talking about the nursing home scandal that is gaining more steam by the day.
Cuomo said it was a mistake to "create a void by not producing public information fast enough" for his handling of nursing home residents during the early days of the pandemic, but remained unapologetic.
"I get that, but then it was exploited with misinformation, people playing politics, Republicans playing politics," says Cuomo. "It's a lie to say any numbers were inaccurate. Total deaths were always reported in nursing homes and hospitals."
Senate Republican Communications Director Katy Delgado released a statement on the comments, saying in part, "It's obvious to anyone with eyes and ears that the governor continued to unravel today with more lies and deception about his coverup of nursing home deaths."
Over and over again, the governor insisted all of the numbers of nursing home COVID-19 deaths reported were accurate, despite a top Cuomo aide admitting to legislative leaders that the administration was not giving them accurate numbers about COVID-related nursing home deaths for fear the federal government would use them against them.
In recent weeks, a court order and state attorney general report has forced the state to acknowledge the nursing home resident death toll is nearly 15,000, when it was previously reported as 8,500 - a number that excluded residents who died after being taken to hospitals. The new toll amounts to about one-seventh of the people living in nursing homes as of 2019 in New York.
Ana Martinez's daughters say the 78-year-old had a knee replaced late last year and then ended up in a Long Island rehab facility and nursing home. But when the pandemic hit, she never came home.
The sisters, who say they once supported and voted for Cuomo, now put the blame squarely on him for her death.
"She was very hard working. She was dedicated to us and her grandchildren, who she loved very much," says Alexa Rivera.
"He ordered a mandate on March 25 that put 9,000 COVID matches back into the facilities and our parents were dry grass," says Vivian Martinez. "In the end, we ended up with nothing of an explanation and deflection."
A growing number of lawmakers are calling to create an impeachment commission to delve further into the facts. It comes as federal prosecutors and the FBI are reportedly looking into the administration's handling of the situation.
Some Democrats are looking for answers as well.
"I don't think we have all the answers yet as to why certain information didn't come out," says state Sen. John Brooks (D-Seaford). "I think that has to be addressed. But you don't make judgment until that question is addressed."
Lawmakers are also proposing a resolution to establish the Temporary Joint Legislative Committee that would investigate the state's response. It would set a 60-day deadline for the committee to conduct its work and submit findings and recommendations to the Legislature.
Meanwhile, residents and loved ones of those at Momentum Rehab and Nursing Facility in East Islip are among those waiting for guidance on visitation this Monday.