Andrew Cuomo faces questions about COVID nursing home deaths

Former Gov. Cuomo set to face COVID questions today

Former Gov. Cuomo set to face COVID questions today 00:27

NEW YORK — Former New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s handling of COVID in nursing homes is under scrutiny Tuesday in Washington, D.C.

Republican lawmakers on the House Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Pandemic are specifically asking him about the state’s nursing home guidance in the early days of the pandemic.

On March 25, 2020, New York mandated that nursing homes must admit patients who tested positive for COVID. Cuomo’s administration was accused of underreporting nursing home deaths, but the state later acknowledged at least 15,000 long-term care residents died during the pandemic.

The former governor entered the building with a wave Tuesday, intent on defending himself from claims the nursing home directive led to needless deaths. On his way inside, he was asked whether he had anything to say to the families of those who died. He called the situation a “tragic loss.”

“At one time in this country, 50 percent of the deaths were in nursing homes. So it was a national tragedy, and that’s what we have to learn from this,” he said. 

Cuomo was subpoenaed in March and then agreed to the interview in April. The subcommittee has also conducted interviews with other members of his administration, including former state Health Commissioner Dr. Howard Zucker.   

Cuomo’s opening statement on COVID pandemic

Cuomo shared a transcript of his opening statement Tuesday morning, ahead of his appearance on Capitol Hill. 

In his prepared testimony, he challenges the premise that New York did something wrong, insisting the state followed the directives that were issued by the federal government. He also says Democratic states were investigated, but red states, like Kentucky, Utah, Arizona and Indiana, that issued the same guidance were not.

Cuomo Opening Statement to the Congressional Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Pandemic by CBSNewYork Scribd on Scribd

Cuomo says the criticism of his administration was politicized under former President Donald Trump and claims the Department of Justice unfairly targeted Democratic-led states in its investigation. 

“To distract from their own culpability and muddy the waters, four years ago the Republican administration made many accusations and called for investigations into New York’s COVID response: those investigations have been completed,” Cuomo’s opening statement reads in part. “The Department of Justice – three times –the Manhattan District Attorney, the New York Attorney General, and the New York State Assembly all investigated and not a single one validated the Republican administration’s accusation that New York’s nursing home admissions guidance was the cause of COVID being introduced into nursing homes.”

He adds New York followed the latest nursing home guidelines from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, as well as the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services.

“Specifically, the Trump administration charged that, in New York, the March 25 admissions guidance issued by the New York Department of Health was allegedly the reason COVID entered the nursing homes,” his opening statement continues. “New York was vilified and attacked for such ignorance and ridiculed for causing thousands of deaths. However, today we know that was never true. Investigations found that New York’s DOH March 25 guidance was consistent with the prior guidelines issued by the federal CMS and CDC on March 4, 9, 13th and 23rd.”

He goes on to say it was actually “staff members and visitors who unknowingly walked the virus into the front door of the facility every day for many months before we even knew COVID was here and continued to walk COVID into nursing homes for months until mandatory staff testing was available and in place.”

The former governor is expected to answer questions for much of the day, amid speculation the decision to call him now is an attempt to hurt his chances of mounting a political comeback. 

CBS New York’s political reporter Marcia Kramer will have a full analysis of today’s appearance on Capitol Hill.

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