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“Take responsibility” is the first rule in leadership, but that got left out of Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s book. To avoid admitting its hand in the deaths of thousands of vulnerable elderly nursing-home residents, Team Cuomo is inventing ridiculous excuses for not sharing the data.
Last July, the state Department of Health released a whitewashing report absolving itself of blame for thousands of COVID-related deaths at the state’s 617 nursing homes, instead fingering the home’s staffers. In reality, the federal Justice Department identified New York and three other states as having “required nursing homes to admit COVID-19 patients to their vulnerable populations, often without adequate testing.”
The Empire Center for Public Policy and the Times Union filed Freedom Of Information Law requests for copies of the nursing-home-survey data that formed the basis of the DOH findings. But Team Cuomo won’t cough up the data — not even to the Legislature. All by itself, that tells you the info doesn’t support those findings.
The DOH spent months claiming it would turn the info over once it had been vetted for accuracy, then switched to declaring that honoring the FOIL requests “would constitute an unwarranted invasion of personal privacy” as a sharing of confidential “interagency or intra-agency materials” prohibited by the New York Public Officers Law.
This stonewall exposes Cuomo’s utter arrogance — his administration’s contempt not just for the media but also the families of the deceased. He and his minions will defy the letter and spirit of the law rather than come clean.
The Empire Center’s Bill Hammond says it isn’t “about assigning blame or embarrassing political leaders” but “about gaining a full and accurate understanding of what happened” so we can do better in any future pandemic. Count that as another way Cuomo puts his own political interests above the needs of vulnerable citizens.
Sooner or later, the full truth will come out, and this effort to hide it will only add to the scandal. Cuomo is basically guaranteeing that he’ll go down in history as the governor who mistakenly doomed thousands to a horrible premature death — and then intentionally did all he could to cover it up.