Rep. Elise Stefanik is calling for New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo and several state officials to immediately be subpoenaed following the state attorney general’s disclosure this week that COVID-19-related deaths in nursing homes have been undercounted by as much as 50 percent.
Stefanik was responding to a 76-page report on the findings, released earlier in the day, by New York Attorney General Letitia James. According to the report, the AG’s investigators surveyed 62 nursing homes around the state and discovered that 1,914 residents from those facilities died there or at nearby hospitals after they tested positive for the virus or exhibited symptoms of COVID-19.
That figure was 56 percent higher than were the numbers of coronavirus deaths at those same facilities published by Cuomo’s Department of Health.
If the undercount remains roughly the same across all of New York’s nursing homes, it could inflate the ‘official’ coronavirus death toll from 8,711 to more than 13,000.
Cuomo has been roundly criticized for his decision early in the pandemic in ordering nursing homes to take in patients diagnosed with the virus, even though it was becoming widely known that sick and elderly Americans were far more at risk of dying from the disease.
The order, dated March 25, 2020, from the New York Department of Health, required eldercare facilities to accept coronavirus patients, ostensibly as part of Cuomo’s strategy to keep hospital beds available for COVID-19 patients.
“During this global health emergency, all NHs [nursing homes] must comply with the expedited receipt of residents returning from hospitals,” the order said.
The following month during a coronavirus press briefing, Cuomo threatened to close nursing homes unless they provided staff with personal protective equipment (PPE). He also said the facilities had no choice but to accept coronavirus patients.
“We have been helping them with more PPE but, again, it’s not our job,” he said. “You’ll be out of business if you’re not providing your staff with the right equipment. You’re out of business. That we can do.”
He added that the facilities “have to do the job they’re getting paid to do, and if they’re not doing the job they’re getting paid to do, and they’re violating state regulations, then that’s a different issue — then they should lose their license.”
Stefanik, a New York Republican, initially responded to James’ report in a Twitter post on Thursday.
“The Worst Governor in America and his sycophant hacks will try to blame the nursing homes. Don’t let them get away with it. This is Cuomo’s crime and his staff’s criminal coverup,” she wrote.
The Worst Governor in America and his sycophant hacks will try to blame the nursing homes.
Don’t let them get away with it.
This is Cuomo’s crime and his staff’s criminal coverup.
— Elise Stefanik (@EliseStefanik) January 28, 2021
Later, in a segment with Fox News host Sean Hannity Thursday evening, Stefanik insisted that Cuomo and other state officials should be held accountable.
“Sean, this is so much more than a nursing home scandal. This is a massive corruption scandal at the highest level of New York state government,” she said.
“We know that the March edict that the governor put in place, Gov. Cuomo, forced nursing homes to take positive COVID patients, which put at risk our most vulnerable constituents in New York state. There have been advocates who have lost loved ones who have been asking for answers, accountability, and transparency. And at every turn, the governor and his staff have smeared those individuals,” she added.
“We need to get answers and issue subpoenas immediately against the governor, the Commissioner of Health in New York state, Dr. Zucker, and his senior staff. Because the corruption is the cover-up. They knew this number, and yet they refused to be transparent with New Yorkers, but what was most heartless is they weren’t transparent with those that have lost loved ones,” Stefanik added.
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