NEW YORK, NY – There have been calls for a probe into how New York State handled the early days of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic when Melissa DeRosa, secretary to Governor Andrew Cuomo, admitted earlier this week that officials withheld the state’s nursing home death toll out of fear that the data could “be used against us” by the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) during a federal probe, reports say.
According to a bombshell report released in January by New York Attorney General Letitia James, state health agencies may have been undercounting deaths in nursing homes related to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic by as much as half.
DeRosa initially made the claim that officials had withheld nursing home data during a phone call with New York Democratic lawmakers on Thursday.
“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, what we start saying, was going to be used against us while we weren’t sure if there was going to be an investigation,” DeRosa reportedly said.
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DeRosa, however, has already begun to walk back that admission, stating Friday that the Cuomo Administration was “comprehensive and transparent” when it came to providing requested information to the DOJ for their probe.
“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,” DeRosa said in a statement posted on Twitter. “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.”
This news caused Republicans – including Congresswoman Elise Stefanik (R-NY) – to call for a probe into the matter, up to and including the potential prosecution of Cuomo himself.
“Governor Cuomo, The Secretary To The Governor, And His Senior Team Must Be Prosecuted Immediately – both by the Attorney General of New York State and the U.S. Department of Justice,” Stefanik said in a statement. “This bombshell admission of a coverup and the remarks by the Secretary to the Governor indicating intent to obstruct any federal investigation is a stunning and criminal abuse of power.”