Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s handling of his administration’s decision to delay releasing data on Covid-19 deaths in long-term care facilities has prompted widespread criticism from state lawmakers and others.
Here is a summary of those comments, including those from legislators who represent the Hudson Valley:
State Sen. Mike Martucci (R,C,I-New Hampton)
“This isn’t about right and left. This is about right and wrong, and covering up 15,000 deaths for political reasons is flat out wrong. We need to know what this administration knew and when. An independent investigation is needed now more than ever, and anyone involved should face justice. Therefore, I am calling for two specific action items.
“First, we need a truly independent investigation — that rules out the Attorney General and the Biden administration since both have been endorsed by and supported by the Governor. Only one person is trusted by both sides of the aisle and has a record of pursuing and prosecuting political corruption wherever it may lurk. His name is Preet Bharara. The Attorney General and the Department of Justice should step aside and appoint Mr. Bharara as Special Prosecutor in this case and provide him with all the people and resources he needs to pursue this investigation wherever it may lead.
“Second, the State Legislature must meet in a special session next week to finally pass a joint resolution revoking the Governor’s extraordinary emergency powers. Only an administration who believes it is above the law would have the nerve to admit to a cover up on an open call that could be recorded. That arrogance comes from having too much power and the Legislature has no choice now but to act to revoke it.
“The families of victims in nursing homes and assisted living/adult care facilities deserve real answers, accountability, and justice. This is the only way we can trust that will happen.”
Assemblyman Karl Brabenec (R,C,I-Deerpark)
“If you were on the fence as to whether we needed to launch a full-scale investigation into the governor’s office, there should be no doubt left in your mind that it is beyond time. On the radio this morning, both Sen. Mike Martucci and I called for an independent investigation to get to the bottom of this.
“If the executive branch broke the law in hiding this information, then whoever was involved must be prosecuted and held accountable. This week the Legislature needs to do what it should have done months ago and remove the governor’s emergency powers immediately. This is not a partisan issue, political corruption to protect yourself from scrutiny is unacceptable and we owe it to the victims and families devastated by this to investigate.”
Assemblyman Colin J. Schmitt (R,C,I,LBT,SAM-New Windsor)
“The Attorney General must immediately commence a criminal investigation and charges must be brought against anyone, including those at the highest level of state government, found to be involved in this conspiracy.”
New York GOP Chairman Nick Langworthy
“The second most powerful person in state government and top aide to Governor Cuomo admitted on video to the premeditated and willful violation of state laws and what clearly amounts to federal obstruction of justice. Andrew Cuomo has abused his power and destroyed the trust placed in the office of governor. Prosecution and impeachment discussions must begin right away.
“Andrew Cuomo is an inveterate liar. The problem with coverups is that when they start unraveling, more lies are required to cover for the previous lies, and that is exactly what is happening with Cuomo’s deadly nursing home debacle. The only void that exists is the truth and it is crystal clear that the only way to get it is through a real independent investigation by a special prosecutor.”
Senator James Skoufis (D-Hudson Valley)
Skoufis said that Department of Health Commissioner Zucker submitted a 16-page response to nursing home questions and concerns that were raised by Skoufis amidst the staggering death toll in residential care facilities. This comes two weeks after Skoufis, chairman of the Senate’s investigations committee, threatened a subpoena for the information if not provided by the end of February. During his two years as chairman of the committee, Skoufis has issued 25 subpoenas to uncooperative individuals and organizations.
Included in the Department of Health’s response was the full count of nursing home and assisted living residents who died from COVID-19 (15,049), data on nursing home inspections and violations during the pandemic, a detailed breakdown of PPE distribution, information on residential transfers between nursing homes and hospitals, and a review of testing protocols in nursing homes since last March.
“While the Department of Health’s response was long overdue, it’s important that it was finally shared,” Skoufis said. “Legislators from both parties, families of nursing home residents and the public understand the gravity of getting answers and acting upon them. While there will, no doubt, be additional questions, I intend to review the Administration’s response with my colleagues and continue developing a legislative response to this ongoing nursing home crisis. I remain committed to getting answers, holding stakeholders accountable, and advancing solutions in a sober, thoughtful manner.”
Skoufis has introduced a number bills at the start of the 2021 legislative session pertaining to nursing home reforms. Included in the package of legislation are measures to better inform prospective nursing home residents of violations at a facility prior to admission, significantly increase infection control inspections and provide for the revocation of operating licenses when nursing homes put residents at serious risk and provide for enhanced transparency and accountability surrounding nursing home incident and death data.
These bills have passed the Senate Health Committee.