Cuomo Must Go

 Originally published February 17, 2021

https://www.queensjewishlink.com/index.php/opinion/4053-cuomo-must-go

If possible, this week yielded even more revelations about Governor Andrew Cuomo’s massive nursing home scandal. Based on the evidence available to the public, Cuomo deliberately covered up nursing home deaths to avoid prosecution by the Trump Department of Justice. New Yorkers should demand his resignation.

As reported by the New York Post on Thursday, February 11, Melissa DeRosa, secretary to Cuomo, admitted that they deliberately hid the number of nursing home deaths requested by the New York State Legislature in August 2020. According to a video conference call of a meeting with State Democratic leaders, DeRosa claims that this was “right around the same time [that then-President Donald Trump] turns this into a giant political football. He starts tweeting that we killed everyone in nursing homes.” DeRosa, attempting to explain her actions, claims that Trump made this partisan because he was “going after” Democratic Governors. However, what she fails to mention is that each of the governors that Trump is “going after,” like New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy, California Governor Gavin Newsom, and Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer all had similar nursing home policies as New York, and all had high nursing home death rates. No Republican governors fit that mold. Trump’s inquiry was not political, it was factual.

DeRosa claims that after Trump directed the DOJ to investigate New York, “basically, we froze.” “Froze” is apparently a euphemism for cover-up. As the Associated Press reported last week, “More than 9,000 recovering coronavirus patients in New York State were released from hospitals into nursing homes early in the pandemic under a controversial directive that was scrapped amid criticism it accelerated outbreaks.” And so 9,056 recovering patients were sent to nursing homes all over the state.

Cuomo claimed that this was done because they did not want the hospitals overwhelmed. However, the hospital ship that the Trump administration sent over, as well as the Javits Center and other overflow facilities went largely, if not completely, unused. There was no overflow issue in New York between the end of March and the beginning of May, when Cuomo’s nursing home directive was in place. Recovering patients could have been sent to those facilities, yet over 9,000 patients were sent to nursing homes that contained people who were most vulnerable to COVID: the elderly.

Nor is it an excuse that the science was not yet clear that the elderly were more susceptible to the virus. By the middle of March, before Cuomo made the directive to send patients back to nursing homes, it was scientifically proven that older people were hardest hit. Cuomo also blames the Trump administration’s CDC, even though CDC guidelines at the time specifically mentioned that COVID-positive patients should only be sent to nursing homes if they can be quarantined from the residents. Cuomo’s directive had no such provision.

Cuomo, of course, is denying complicity. In a statement on Monday, he claimed that “All the deaths in the nursing homes and hospitals were always fully, publicly and accurately reported” and that the discrepancy was a “categorization” issue. This issue has been known for close to a year, that New York counted nursing home deaths differently than the other 49 states. That didn’t stop Cuomo from previously claiming that New York had low nursing home death numbers. It also didn’t compel Cuomo to comply with the State Legislature’s demand for more accurate data. Like most political scandals, making the hard call is usually not the issue. The issue is the cover-up. Now that Joe Biden, a fellow Democrat, is in the White House, will Andrew Cuomo be prosecuted for deliberately hiding information from the federal government to avoid an investigation into his actions? Assuming that the Biden DOJ has no interest in that, what recourse do New Yorkers have?

Former Governor George Pataki says the time is right for a recall effort, despite the fact that New York (unlike California and 38 other states) has no mechanism to recall Cuomo. “I only think it should be used in extraordinary cases, but when you really have lost confidence in the leadership in your state,” says Pataki. “I think the opportunity should exist for the majority of the people to say we want something different.” Cuomo, who is in his third term and already expressed interest in a fourth one, can be impeached, but it is unlikely the Democrat-majority legislature will go against their own.

A mechanism to get Cuomo out of office is neither unprecedented nor only about COVID. In California, an effort to recall Governor Gavin Newson has reached 1.4 million signatures. COVID seems to be the final straw for many Californians sick of broad policy that has been destroying their state. New Yorkers have similar complaints. Increased crime, increased homelessness, high taxes, and fleeing residents and businesses have been occurring for years. This nursing home scandal may finally be the catalyst to ending Cuomo’s decade-long reign in the state.

As previously described, a few weeks ago in the column entitled, “Cuomo News Isn’t News,” none of this was a secret. Janice Dean was publicizing this for months. Conservative news sources pointed out the discrepancies. Yet the media treated Cuomo like a deity. He had a book deal, Emmy award, and near universal praise from the mainstream. New Yorkers need to see past the lies and deception and view Cuomo for who he is: a failure who has led New York to doom.

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