House COVID panel demands Cuomo testify on nursing-home scandal
US House members probing the COVID pandemic fired off a letter Friday to disgraced former Gov. Andrew Cuomo demanding he testify about why he sent coronavirus patients to nursing homes during the height of outbreak.
House members previously sent five similar letters to the ex-New York governor, to which he did not respond.
“Your testimony is important to uncover the circumstances and policies which led to the death of more than 15,000 New York nursing home residents during your tenure,” wrote Rep. Brad Wenstrup (R-Ohio), chairman of the GOP-controlled House Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Pandemic, in the panel’s latest missive to Cuomo.
“The victims’ families deserve to know the truth.
“Therefore, we request you testify via an in-person transcribed interview. Accordingly, Select Subcommittee staff will contact you to schedule the interview reserving the right to conduct follow-up interviews if necessary to further our investigation.”
The letter is a voluntary request for an interview, though the subcommittee does have subpoena power.
The Republican chairman also requested all documents and communications related to Cuomo’s nursing-home mandate, a report on the effects of the mandate by the Empire State’s Department of Health and a separate report by New York Attorney General Letitia James — all no later than June 2.
Wenstrup also requested documents and communications from a Department of Justice civil-rights investigation into the mandate, which began in August 2020 under former President Donald Trump but was dropped in July 2021 under President Biden.
“This is nothing more than another transparent political attempt to weaponize people’s pain to further a craven partisan agenda,” a spokesman for Cuomo told The Post.
“The inconvenient facts left out is that New York’s health department was one of at least 11 that issued similar guidance — including Utah, Florida and Indiana — which itself was modeled on CMS guidelines. If this wasn’t another Trump-style Blue State defection, they’d be looking at Ron DeSantis and every other state as well.”
The subcommittee also sent a letter to New York Gov. Kathy Hochul requesting information on any state orders related to the mandate, as well as the total number of COVID-19 nursing home case counts and deaths.
She also has been asked to turn in documents and communications on James’ report and the Justice Department investigation.
Requests were also made in letters sent to New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy and Pennsylvania Gov. Josh Shapiro, over similar directives in their states.
On Wednesday, the committee heard testimony from a daughter of an elderly woman who died of COVID-19 in a New York nursing home and later cofounded a support group for other victims’ families.
“We never saw our beautiful mother again,” Vivian Zayas said. “She was dead shortly after [contracting the virus]. Gasping for air, alone, confused, and scared without her daughters who were her translators and caregivers. My mom didn’t get to meet her grandchildren or her great-grandchildren.”
Zayas’ mother, Ana Martinez, was one of thousands of people kept in nursing homes between March and May 2020 under Cuomo’s directive that also shipped some coronavirus patients to them.
The governor partially rescinded his mandate May 10, 2020, in a press conference by keeping COVID-positive patients from being moved from hospitals into nursing homes — though the order did not prevent admission from alternative-care centers.
“Like many other families, the nursing home kept us in the dark as well, never telling us that they were admitting COVID-positive patients at the insistence of Governor Cuomo,” Zayas told members of the subcommittee.
The Cuomo administration initially downplayed the total number of COVID fatalities tied to nursing homes by excluding deaths of patients that occurred outside of them, such as at hospitals, in a July 2020 report.
A senior Cuomo adviser admitted in February 2021 that the administration hid the true number for fear it would “be used against us” by federal prosecutors.
The New York State Health Department in March 2022 found Cuomo had “misled the public” in undercounting the deaths by more than 50%.
The governor resigned in August 2021 after nearly a dozen women accused him of sexual harassment while in office. He has denied the allegations.
Original Article: House COVID panel demands Cuomo testify (nypost.com)