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The Assembly Minority Conference

‘We Froze’ Is Not Good Enough

Column from Assembly Minority Leader Will Barclay

Earlier this week, a half-dozen, hand-picked Majority Conference legislators participated in a private meeting with Gov. Cuomo’s top aides to discuss the state’s nursing home response and inexcusable delays of information being shared. During that meeting, Secretary to the Governor Melissa DeRosa apologized for the political inconvenience of the governor’s failure to provide data and information on the COVID-19 disaster in nursing homes.

It is nearly impossible to enumerate the number of ways this “apology” insults the families of those who lost loved ones in New York’s nursing homes.

More than 15,000 seniors living in nursing homes and long-term care facilities died. A report from the state attorney general indicated missteps by the administration, namely underreporting the true death toll by 50 percent and requiring the homes to admit COVID-19 positive residents, which greatly contributed to the spread of the disease. If Gov. Cuomo, Ms. DeRosa or anyone else in his administration should be sorry, they should be sorry for their failed policies and subsequent cover-up. 

On the call, DeRosa admitted, “We froze,” as the administration was apparently trying to figure out how to properly shield itself from a federal Department of Justice (DOJ) investigation and associated political fallout. This is not good enough. At a time when public confidence in health and government officials has never been more important, this administration engaged in a months-long cover-up into their misguided policies. And, the excuse from his office: “We froze.”

In the two weeks since the attorney general released her scathing report on Jan. 28, more and more questions have surfaced regarding Gov. Cuomo’s nursing home response and his true motivations for concealing vital public health information. While we now have greater insight, we won’t know the truth until there are full investigations into this matter. Whether it comes from the federal DOJ, the state attorney general, or subpoena-driven public hearings in the Legislature, we need answers and we need action.

Anyone involved in these decisions must be accountable for their decisions, and right now every possible mechanism to find accountability is on the table. At the very least, we must finally revoke Gov. Cuomo’s emergency powers that he has held far too long – but that should only be the first step.

Gov. Cuomo wrote a book about leadership as the pandemic raged. Ms. DeRosa was named to Joe Biden’s transition team on COVID-19 response. As it turns out, the people who billed themselves as the heroes of the pandemic have misled, concealed and contrived their way into a national embarrassment. Every state in the nation has been forced to deal with this terrible pandemic. Every state in the nation has had a tragic death toll to account for. Where else but Andrew Cuomo’s office are lies, schemes and investigations now surfacing? Nowhere.

It is time Majority Conference members of the Legislature’s majority conferences wake up and do something; the public deserves action, answers and swift accountability.

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