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House GOP want CDC COVID reports on NY nursing home deaths

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WASHINGTON — House Republicans are demanding copies of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s early pandemic reports to states on COVID-19 nursing home deaths — signaling a likely path to revive investigations into former Gov. Andrew Cuomo and other Democratic leaders if the GOP retakes the House in next week’s midterm elections.

The existence of the CDC reports to state officials was described in a briefing last year for members of the House Ways and Means Committee and date from May 2020, the approximate end date of New York requiring nursing homes to take COVID-19 patients.

Rep. Kevin Brady (R-Texas), the retiring ranking member of the committee, renewed a request for the records in a Thursday letter to Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra. It was cosigned by committee members Mike Kelly (R-Pa.) and Lloyd Smucker (R-Pa.).

The lawmakers said the records could provide insight into the coverup of death data by Cuomo and his administration.

“During [a] March 11, 2021, briefing, we learned that the [CDC] used the National Health Safety Network (NHSN) to gather COVID-19 related nursing home data directly from nursing homes across the country,” Brady writes. “As part of that data collection effort, which began in May 2020, the CDC provided monthly reports to state governments summarizing the data reported directly by nursing homes.”

Rep. Kevin Brady.
Rep. Kevin Brady renewed a request for the records in a Thursday letter to Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra.
AP

The letter adds, “we remain concerned about the policy decisions in the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic regarding nursing homes and whether certain states may have intentionally misled the public and perhaps the federal government regarding COVID-19-related deaths in those facilities.”

Cuomo on March 25, 2020 barred nursing homes from turning away patients “solely based on a confirmed or suspected diagnosis of COVID-19,” which the families of victims say caused the deaths of thousands of elderly residents.

Cuomo aide Melissa DeRosa later confessed to Democratic state legislators that the administration decided to conceal nursing home death statistics because “we froze” out of fear that the data would “be used against us” by federal prosecutors.

Republicans including upstate Rep. Elise Stefanik are vowing to resurrect House oversight efforts if they reclaim the power to subpoena documents and testimony.

Andrew Cuomo.
Andrew Cuomo aide Melissa DeRosa confessed to Democratic state legislators that the administration decided to conceal nursing home death statistics out of fear that the data would “be used against us.”
Office of the Governor of New York via AP

Cuomo’s order was intended to ease hospital crowding. But critics say it caused mass death while federal treatment facilities such as a military hospital ship and a temporary hospital in the Javits Center were closed due to too few patients.

The Brady-led letter seeks CDC reports pertaining to New York and four other states with similar orders — California, Michigan, New Jersey and Pennsylvania.

“The American people deserve a government that is accountable, which is especially critical when decisions are made that may have resulted in additional transmission of the COVID-19 virus and the loss of thousands of American lives,” the letter says.

“Therefore, we request that [HHS] preserve all documents and communications in its custody related to COVID-19-related nursing home data collection through NHSN and about whether certain states may have intentionally misled the public and perhaps the federal government regarding COVID-19-related deaths in those facilities.”

Family members of nursing home seniors who have died from COVID-19.
Family members of nursing home seniors who have died from COVID-19 hold signs calling out then-Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s handling of the pandemic.

A patient is wheeled out of Cobble Hill Health Center by emergency medical workers.
A patient is wheeled out of Cobble Hill Health Center by emergency medical workers in April 2020.

A box with the cremated ashes of Dnynia Armstrong, center, a nursing home COVID-19 victim, surrounded with baskets of pinecones representing other nursing home pandemic deaths, is displayed during a news conference in New York.
A box with the cremated ashes of a nursing home COVID-19 victim is displayed during a news conference in New York.

A protest-memorial wall for nursing home residents who died from COVID-19.
A protest-memorial wall for nursing home residents who died from COVID-19.

HHS did not immediately respond to The Post’s request for comment.

Cuomo has denied that his order caused excess deaths and accused critics of trying to exploit the tragic toll for political gain.

The nursing home storyline has lingering significance in New York politics.

Stefanik recently accused Cuomo’s successor and former lieutenant governor, Kathy Hochul, of being “complicit” in the nursing home deaths. Hochul and Cuomo, who at some point may attempt a political comeback, could face subpoenas for their testimony next year.

“Since Gov. Cuomo has been forced to resign, Kathy Hochul, who was the sitting lieutenant governor, promised to fight for transparency. She lied when she said that,” Stefanik said at a September hearing of the House Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Crisis.

Cuomo didn’t appear at that hearing — with an aide claiming he didn’t get the invite.

“As families came forward, they tried to reach the governor and share their views, as well as nursing home workers. But what was the governor focused on?” Stefanik said at the hearing. “He was focused on winning his Emmy, which has since been taken away from him, and he was focused on cooking the books, withholding the numbers, so he could get his $5.2 million book contract, which was unethical.”

The Justice Department launched investigations in 2020 into whether New York violated the federal civil rights of nursing home patients and whether facilities provided “grossly substandard care.” The FBI later probed the coverup of deaths data.

Federal investigations apparently were discontinued after President Biden took office.

New York Attorney General Letitia James, a Democrat, said last year there were about 50% more nursing home patient deaths than reported by Cuomo’s administration. Her report indicated almost one-third of New York’s more than 43,000 COVID-19 deaths at the time were linked to nursing homes.

More than 13,000 New York nursing home patients may have died from the virus, according to James. The official state count acknowledged 8,711 deaths at the time. Before James released her findings, an Associated Press analysis in August 2020 found 11,000 New York nursing home residents may have died.

A book released in August by former Trump White House adviser Jared Kushner said that Cuomo specifically mentioned his concern about nursing home safety 10 days before ordering the facilities to take sick patients.

Cuomo allegedly told Kushner, “For nursing homes, this could be like fire through dry grass,” and then issued the controversial order the next week.



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