ALBANY, N.Y. (WWNY) - New Yorkers are panning Governor Cuomo’s performance when it comes to releasing information about COVID deaths among nursing home patients.
Cuomo has been under fire ever since Attorney General Letitia James issued a blistering report which concluded the Cuomo administration had under-counted nursing home deaths from COVID by as much as 50 percent.
And just this week, Cuomo acknowledged he made a “mistake” in not releasing accurate information sooner, though he stopped short of an apology.
Now, a Siena Research Institute poll shows New Yorkers give Cuomo a negative grade - 39 to 55 percent - when it comes to making public all data about COVID deaths of nursing home patients.
The poll, released Tuesday, shows Democrats continue to support Cuomo when it comes to COVID and nursing home deaths. But he loses heavily among Republicans and independents.
Cuomo also gets a mixed grade - 48 to 49 percent - for his management of the vaccine rollout. And again, Democrats back him, while Republicans and independents do not.
Overall, the poll shows New Yorkers approve of the job Cuomo is doing to address the pandemic, 61 to 34 percent.
“New Yorkers saw with their own two eyes how Governor Cuomo worked day and night to get us on the other side of this pandemic,” Rich Azzopardi, an aide to Cuomo said in a statement.
“There are politics and then there are facts and the facts in this poll shows the governor’s favorability is rock solid and virtually unchanged and, nearly a year in, an overwhelming majority of New Yorkers approve of his handling of the pandemic.”
The January 28 report by Attorney General James pushed the Cuomo administration to drastically revise its numbers for the number of nursing home patients who have died from COVID, from fewer than 9,000 to more than 13,000 for nursing homes and 15,000 when other long long-term care facilities are included.
Underlying the dispute over numbers is this: the Cuomo administration issued guidance in March 2020 directing nursing homes to take COVID positive patients, if they could care for them.
Cuomo’s critics believe that guidance caused COVID to spread in New York’s nursing homes, resulting in unnecessary deaths, and that Cuomo then under-reported the number of nursing home deaths from COVID to cover up what had happened.
Cuomo insists the March guidance did not spread COVID in New York’s nursing homes in most cases, and he has said his administration delayed reporting accurate numbers to the state legislature and the public because they needed time to gather information for then - President Trump’s Department of Justice.
A top aide to the governor said they were concerned the data “was going to be used against us” unfairly by the Trump justice department.
Melissa DeRosa subsequently issued a clarification of her statement.
What’s not clear is why it took another six months after responding the Department of Justice for the Cuomo administration to finally issue accurate numbers - and even then it only happened after the Attorney General’s report and after a judge ruled the administration had to surrender the information.
Republicans and some Democrats in the state legislature are calling for hearings at which Cuomo administration officials would have to testify under oath, for an independent law enforcement investigation - though it’s not clear what law could have been broken - and for Cuomo’s emergency powers to fight the pandemic to be taken away.
Democrats are preparing legislation to vote on next week that would curtail Cuomo’s emergency powers.