Cuomo defiant as nursing home scandal expands, vows to ‘aggressively’ take on ‘lies’

Cuomo remained silent about a watchdog report blaming the policy for deaths

Gov. Andrew Cuomo and his health department's top official defiantly defended the administration's nursing home policy on Friday, as the Democratic governor acknowledged that he should have provided more public information "sooner" but said he "should have been more aggressive" in fighting "lies" by his "crazy" Republican opponents. 

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Cuomo made the comments during a press conference, saying he was "complacent" in not addressing the "falsities" and "attacks" against himself.

The appearance came after the Democratic governor remained silent about a watchdog report that said Cuomo's nursing home directive was likely responsible for more than 1,000 additional resident deaths during the coronavirus pandemic, despite numerous denials by the administration that their order was heavily to blame. 

A top Cuomo aide admitted recently that the administration purposefully withheld accurate COVID-19 death information from the Justice Department who was probing nursing home cases in four states including New York. 

Cuomo insisted on Friday that the information his administration provided was accurate at the time but admitted that he "did not produce public information fast enough." 

"This creates a void," he said. "And conspiracy theories and politics and rumors fill that void and you can't allow inaccurate information to go unanswered." 

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Cuomo's silence has been amplified, particularly because prior to the heavy scrutiny, he regularly appeared on his brother, Chris Cuomo's show on CNN, to conduct friendly, comical interviews. 

Gov. Cuomo also wrote a book about successfully handling of the pandemic in the middle of the pandemic.

In a lengthy monologue Friday, Cuomo said "I was not aggressive enough in knocking down the falsities. We were busy. We were doing our job. We’re trying to save lives. No excuses."

Despite his efforts to chalk up the drama-filled weeks to partisan politics, as questions swirling around his handling of the pandemic continue, the administration was forced to admit recently that nursing home deaths had topped 15,000-- nearly 10,000 more than was originally reported by the state at the end of January. New York lawmakers have banded together in bipartisanship, with calls to strip him of his executive powers to make decisions regarding COVID-19.

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Republicans are also spearheading an effort to create a commission to impeach Cuomo, while others are demanding he resigns from his post.

Meanwhile, NY Health Commissioner Dr. Howard Zucker attempted to make the case Friday that COVID-19 cases were introduced into the nursing homes through infected staff members, and not because nursing homes were directed to admit positive patients beginning on March 25.

The comments contradict a watchdog analysis by the nonprofit Empire Center for Public Policy, which compared the death rates at facilities that admitted COVID-19 patients discharged from hospitals to the rates at others that didn’t, suggests the controversial mandate by Cuomo is "associated with" more than one in six of 5,780 nursing deaths statewide between late March and early May.

"What if we hadn't done March 25th?" Zucker said during the press conference. "Hospital beds that ended up saving lives would not have been available because they would have been occupied by someone who could have been discharged." 

"Unfortunately, instead of learning from devastating policy mistakes, Governor Cuomo’s Health Department continues to misrepresent the truth," the Empire Center said in a statement obtained by Fox News.

"The salient policy question isn’t whether the March 25th memo introduced COVID into nursing homes, but whether it contributed to higher infection and mortality rates."

"The department’s comments show that it either doesn’t understand statistics, or is willfully ignoring our findings. Our analysis does, in fact, show a consistent relationship between transfers from hospitals to nursing homes and COVID fatalities. These findings were robust to several statistical assumptions," the group said.

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"You make the decisions based on the information that you have at the time. We made the right public health decision at the time and faced with the same facts, we will make the same decisions again," Zucker said.