ALBANY, N.Y. (WWNY) - For a long while last spring, Governor Cuomo was the much-lauded counterpoint to President Trump, the guy who talked science and common sense when it came to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Those days are gone, and if this week is any indicator, it will be hard for Cuomo to bring them back.
Consider the last seven days:
- the state’s attorney general issued a report which concluded the Cuomo administration’s health department undercounted the number of nursing home deaths from COVID by as much as 50 percent. The report triggered outrage from Republicans, who said it backed up their claim that Cuomo was trying to hide the truth.
- the New York Times reported nine top health officials in the Cuomo administration had left or changed jobs, as Cuomo sidelined health experts and - with a small group of trusted aides - made decisions about the state’s response to the pandemic.
- a state Supreme Court judge in Albany said the Cuomo administration broke the law when it repeatedly delayed complying with a Freedom of Information Law request for information about nursing home deaths.
- after months of Republicans in the state legislature calling for hearings into the nursing home deaths, some Democrats said they were open to the idea. The chair of the Senate Finance Committee, Liz Krueger, told Spectrum News the legislature should begin hearings.
“Based on discoveries from the last few days regarding the intentional underreporting of deaths of nursing home residents throughout the state and the mass exodus of the state’s public health experts from their jobs, I believe the legislature should conduct oversight hearings and re-evaluate the continued use of such broad emergency powers by the Executive,” Krueger said.
Separately, Richard Gottfried, Democrat who chairs the Assembly’s health committee, praised the group which went to court to get the nursing home death information.
“It’s an important victory for all of us. This is important data that we in the Legislature and countless New Yorkers have been demanding for months,” he said in a statement.
The question now is what, if anything, happens next. Cuomo’s health department says it is responding to the Freedom of Information Law request. Governor Cuomo has argued his team has done nothing wrong - and that all the nursing home deaths were, in fact, counted. As for staff resignations, Cuomo dismissed a question about them earlier this week, saying “It’s not what a lot of people signed up for. It’s not what a lot of people want to do. It’s not what a lot of people can do.”
Democrats control both houses of the state legislature. Cuomo is a Democrat. Even with their differences, it’s not clear what legislators would gain by taking on the governor.
Still, Republicans insist something has changed in Albany.
“Many Democrats have a lot of questions on what has happened in the nursing home issue. So I don’t believe it’s just gonna be the Republicans down there questioning this; I believe we have a lot of bipartisan support<’ said Ken Blankenbush, the Republican assemblyman who represents parts of Jefferson and St. Lawrence counties, and all of Lewis County.
Blankenbush and Joe Griffo, the state senator who represents parts of Lewis and St. Lawrence counties and who is in the Republican leadership in the state senate, believe two things need to happen: there need to be hearings on the nursing home issue, and Governor Cuomo’s emergency powers - which the legislature granted as the pandemic began - need to be rolled back.
“He (Cuomo) played a role and it was necessary to step up - and I appreciate that - but on the other hand one person cannot be making all the decisions, the sole authority, particularly when he doesn’t possess the expertise in many of these areas,” Griffo told 7 News Thursday.
The Jefferson County legislature is also calling for new limits on Cuomo’s emergency powers.
And north country congresswoman Elise Stefanik, a frequent critic of Cuomo, said the U.S. Department of Justice should subpeona Cuomo and his top staff “on all documentation and communications related to their nursing home policies during the COVID-19 pandemic.”