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Cuomo aide admits state withheld nursing home data fearing DOJ investigation

It started with a scathing report issued by New York State Attorney General Letitia James that found state health officials heavily misrepresented the total number of COVID-19 nursing home deaths.

The 8,000 number that had been reported quickly grew to 15,000 when data was forced to be released following FOIL requests by The Empire Center.

Finger Lakes Partners (Billboard)

Then, came the revelation in a New York Post exclusive that Melissa DeRosa admitted to Democratic lawmakers that the Cuomo Administration did withhold basic information about nursing home deaths.

RELATED: New York Post report goes in-depth on DeRosa comments

She alleged that Gov. Andrew Cuomo and his team feared political retaliation from the then-President Donald Trump.

One of Cuomo’s top advisors Rich Azzapardi responded to the Post report, doubling-down on the fear of federal retaliation.

“We explained that the Trump administration was in the midst of a politically motivated effort to blame democratic states for COVID deaths and that we were cooperating with Federal document productions and that was the priority and now that it is over we can address the state legislature,” he said. “That said, we were working simultaneously to complete the audit of information they were asking for.”

DeRosa also responded after the report’s publishing.

“I was explaining that when we received the DOJ inquiry, we needed to temporarily set aside the Legislature’s request to deal with the federal request first,” DeRosa said in a statement published by Spectrum News. “We informed the houses of this at the time. We were comprehensive and transparent in our responses to the DOJ, and then had to immediately focus our resources on the second wave and vaccine rollout. As I said on a call with legislators, we could not fulfill their request as quickly as anyone would have liked. But we are committed to being better partners going forward as we share the same goal of keeping New Yorkers as healthy as possible during the pandemic.”

However, not everyone who has been involved in the ongoing reporting on nursing home deaths agrees with the timeline presented by Cuomo’s team.