UPDATED 6:45 PM PT – Thursday, February 18, 2021
Federal agencies continued their investigation into nursing home deaths in New York. On Wednesday, reports said both the FBI and the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Brooklyn looked into the administration of Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D-N.Y.).
The investigation is reportedly just beginning. It will focus on members of Cuomo’s coronavirus task force as well as the actions of his administration related to nursing homes and long-term care facilities.
Accusations of a cover-up arose in January when the state attorney general said New York likely undercounted COVID deaths in nursing homes by as much as half. After the report, the health commissioner released figures that showed nearly 13,000 deaths as of January 19. This total was a massive jump from the 8,700 deaths the health department acknowledged just a day before.
The situation worsened when reports said a top aide to the New York governor privately told lawmakers the administration withheld data from the state legislature over fears of federal prosecution. Cuomo recently said the state should have provided information more quickly, but deflected blame by saying there was only a “delay” in providing the information to the press and public.
“To be clear, all the deaths in the nursing homes and in the hospitals were always fully, publicly and accurately reported,” Cuomo claimed. “The numbers were the numbers, always.”
An administration spokesman said the Justice Department looked into the numbers for months and the administration cooperated with them. State lawmakers have since called for an investigation into Cuomo, with many demanding a repeal of the emergency powers granted to him at the onset of the pandemic.
According to reports, Cuomo did not take this attention well and at least one state Democrat said he was threatened by the governor.
Lawmaker Ron Kim (D) accused Cuomo of obstruction. He said the New York Governor pressured him to change his statement and threatened his career as well as his livelihood.
“He left a shocking moment for all of us in our family,” Kim said. “And I think every day Governor Cuomo and his team defend many different versions of the truth, while lawmakers like me, we’re tasked to pursue the constant singular truth behind what happened in our nursing homes.”
New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio (D) said he believed Kim and called the allegations of bullying “classic Andrew Cuomo.”
“I believe in Ron Kim,” de Blasio said. “And it’s very, very sad. No public servant, no person who’s telling the truth should be treated that way. The threats, the belittling, the demand that someone change their statement right that moment; many many times I’ve heard that and a lot of other people in the state have heard that.”
Reports said additional anonymous Democrat lawmakers experienced pushback and threats of political retaliation from the governor, as well. Meanwhile, a recent poll showed only 39 percent of New York voters believed Cuomo did a good job in making data on COVID deaths in nursing homes available to the public.