The actions of New York Governor Andrew Cuomo’s coronavirus task force in handling nursing homes and long-term care facilities are finally under investigation by the FBI and the US attorney’s office in Brooklyn.
According to the Times Union, the probe by the US attorney’s office in the Eastern District of the state is in the early stages and is focusing on the work of some of the senior members of the governor’s task force.
Cuomo named the first 13 members of his coronavirus task force last March as the state began to be hit by the virus. The task force was headed by Linda Lacewell, an attorney and former chief of staff for Cuomo. Other task force members include state Health Commissioner Howard Zucker, Secretary to the Governor Melissa DeRosa, and Beth Garvey, counsel to the governor.
“As we publicly said, DOJ (Department of Justice) has been looking into this for months,” said Cuomo spokesman Richard Azzopardi, who did not disclose if any administration members had been interviewed or subpoenaed thus far. “We have been cooperating with them and we will continue to.”
The Times Union explains the controversy surrounding Cuomo’s mishandling of nursing homes during the early months of the pandemic:
Nearly three weeks after the governor’s task force was announced last year, the state health department issued an order directing nursing homes and other long-term care facilities that they must accept residents who were being discharged from hospitals even if they were still testing positive for the infectious disease, as long as they were able to care for them properly.
That directive, which was rescinded less than two months later, has been the focus of a firestorm of criticism directed at Cuomo’s administration, including allegations that the order — which the governor said was based on federal guidance — had contributed to the high number of fatalities of nursing home residents in New York. That assertion was largely dismissed in a report by the Department of Health that was released in July.
Last month, the office of Attorney General Letitia James issued a scathing report that concluded the practice may have increased the risk of COVID-19 infections at the congregate facilities and that Cuomo’s administration had delayed reporting that thousands of additional nursing home residents died at hospitals after being infected in their residential facilities.
Earlier this week, the Times Union reported, Gov. Cuomo addressed but did not apologize for the way his administration handled nursing home fatality data.
“Apologize? Look, I have said repeatedly, we made a mistake in creating the void,” he said. “When we didn’t provide information it allowed press, people, cynics, politicians to fill the void. When you don’t correct this information you allow it to continue and we created the void.”
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