NY lawmaker pushes back after Cuomo claims GOP 'playing politics' with nursing home deaths

New York Republican Assemblywoman Nicole Malliotakis is calling for an independent investigation into COVID-19 nursing home deaths in the state telling "Fox & Friends" on Monday that Gov. Andrew Cuomo's actions made “absolutely no sense.”

“I may have been the first person to call for an investigation into this decision; however, I'm not the last,” said Malliotakis, a GOP congressional candidate, adding that “it's not falling upon party lines."

“We have the very powerful Democratic health assembly chairman of the committee here in [the] New York state legislature that has also called for an independent investigation,” Malliotakis continued.

Host Ainsley Earhardt noted, citing data from New York State Health Department, that as of June 21 more than 7,800 confirmed or presumed nursing home deaths had been reported.

Cuomo on Monday, speaking with MSNBC, again defended his administration’s now-scrapped nursing home policy that critics say contributed to thousands of coronavirus deaths.

When asked if he takes responsibility for the order and “the role it may have played in those deaths,” Cuomo said, “the Republicans definitely are playing politics.”

“We had more people die in nursing homes than anywhere else because we had more people die, because the federal government missed the boat and never told us that this virus was coming from Europe and not from China,” he continued.

On Thursday Cuomo also defended the policy slamming the controversy as “a shiny object” and “pure politics.”

Cuomo has received scathing criticism for his early order requiring that nursing homes accept COVID-19 patients who had been released from hospitals, effectively placing them in the same facilities housing the demographic most vulnerable to the virus.

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Cuomo has insisted that New York’s original nursing home policy was in line with a March 13 directive from the Trump administration’s Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) that went out to all states on how to control nursing homes.

The guidelines say a nursing home "can accept a resident diagnosed with COVID-19 ... as long as the facility can follow CDC guidance" — and require any newly admitted resident with a COVID-19 case to be placed in a designated COVID-19 care unit. The guidance also says "nursing homes should admit any individuals that they would normally admit to their facility, including individuals from hospitals where a case of COVID-19 was/is present."

New York, among other states, said at the time that nursing homes cannot refuse to take patients from hospitals solely because they have the coronavirus. After mounting criticism that the policy put the most vulnerable people at risk and contributed to a high number of fatalities, New York reversed course May 10. Now hospitals can only send patients who have tested negative for COVID-19 to nursing homes.

“I have to tell you what he’s [Cuomo is] saying is not accurate,” Malliotakis said on Tuesday.

“If you look at the directive … they said that nursing homes can accept [coronavirus patients], but they had to be put in a separate wing and they could also turn them away.”

She then stressed that there are “two reasons why this needs to be investigated further.”

“Here in New York they really weren't given a choice,” Malliotakis said.

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“As a matter of fact, the nursing homes that I’ve spoken with have told me that they felt that they were pressured in being forced to take individuals even though they couldn't provide care for them and then on top of it, the governor didn't provide them with the proper PPE [personal protective equipment] and safety equipment to stop the spread within the nursing homes.”

Fox News’ Brooke Singman and The Associated Press contributed to this report.