New York Governor Andrew Cuomo's alleged undercounting of nursing-home fatalities amid the COVID-19 pandemic could rise to the level of a criminal offense, according to legal experts. The NY governor has found himself the focus of a federal probing into whether his administration sought to conceal the novel coronavirus pandemic's actual toll.
New York Gov. Cuomo's Nursing Home Scandal
According to John B. Daukas, who served as acting United States attorney general for the Justice Department's Civil Rights Division, "numerous federal criminal statutes could apply." Daukas then mentioned Melissa DeRosa, the secretary of Cuomo, who unleashed a political firestorm the previous week when she divulged to state Democrats that the administration had purportedly concealed data on the number of coronavirus fatalities in nursing homes.
On March 25, 2020, Cuomo issued an executive order mandating NY nursing homes to hospitalize patients who had tested positive for the virus. The order also barred nursing homes from requiring hospitalized residents regarded as "medically stable" to be tested before admission or readmission, reported The Wall Street Journal.
DeRosa admitted to lawmakers that the administration had withheld the tally for fear of them being used against them. Daukas stated DeRosa's reported admissions weren't "merely negligent, but intentional and perhaps criminal," reported Fox News.
DeRosa attempted to blame former President Donald Trump and said he would turn the tally of fatalities into a "giant political football." According to Daukas, "Ms. DeRosa's reported admissions indicate the Cuomo administration's conduct wasn't merely negligent, but intentional and perhaps criminal," reported Daily Mail.
By summer's end, New York recorded over 32,000 COVID-19 fatalities, the highest in the country and more than double than any other state. If New York were its own country, it would have ranked among the top 10 for deaths due to the virus.
Daukas remarked that numerous federal statutes could apply. He noted Cuomo's administration is accused of both attempting to thwart an investigation and making false statements to the federal government.
According to Daukas, "Even if it cannot be proved that the Cuomo administration knowingly provided false information to Justice and the (Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services), New York's willful failure to provide information may itself constitute a criminal offense-particularly if the intent was to thwart a federal investigation-which, after all, is exactly what Ms. DeRosa reportedly said the administration did."
Daukas also stated it is a crime to make false statements to the federal government, and it is also a crime to conceal data and otherwise obstruct government probing. He added New York might have engaged in a conspiracy to defraud the United States and its agencies and possibly block justice, among other crimes.
The number of fatalities in New York translated to the country's second-highest death rate, which is over three times the national average. What caught the Justice Department's observation was Cuomo's claim that New York's nursing-home fatalities were lower than many other states' and that his March 25 order did not contribute to the very high number of New Yorkers who died from the virus.