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Cuomo on backfoot over cover-up claims

By AI HEPING in New York | CHINA DAILY | Updated: 2021-02-18 07:24

Governor of New York Andrew Cuomo speaks in the Manhattan borough of New York City on Oct 12, 2020. [Photo/Agencies]

When New York became the epicenter of the coronavirus outbreak in the United States last year, Governor Andrew Cuomo's articulate daily COVID-19 briefings became must-see television.

His straight-talking approach with facts and touches of empathy were carried live on cable networks and created a national following.

In October, Cuomo's memoir on how he handled the COVID-19 outbreak in New York was released. He received the International Emmy Founders Award in November "in recognition of his leadership during the pandemic and his masterful use of TV to inform and calm people around the world".

Now the 63-year-old third-term Democratic governor who plans to seek another term finds himself enmeshed in charges of a cover-up for not fully and quickly revealing how many people died at state nursing homes.

Both Democrats and Republicans are calling for investigations, even his resignation. There are even calls for the Emmy Award to be rescinded.

Cuomo has come under fire since his top aide, Melissa DeRosa, privately told some state lawmakers that Albany had withheld data about nursing homes from the Legislature.

On Monday, Cuomo responded to the cover-up charges and his critics.

'I accept responsibility'

"We should have done a better job of providing as much information as we could as quickly as we could," he said at a virtual news conference. "No excuses. I accept responsibility for that."

Cuomo said the state did not cover up deaths but should have moved faster to release some information sought by lawmakers, the public and the media. He said his administration's lack of transparency about how it counted coronavirus-related deaths in the state had been a mistake.

"When we didn't provide information, it created confusion and cynicism and pain for the families. The truth is: Everybody did everything they could," Cuomo said.

"The last thing I wanted to do was aggravate a terrible situation," he said. "There were people's requests, press requests that were not answered in a timely manner."

In recent weeks, the state has been forced to acknowledge the nursing home resident death toll is nearly 15,000. But as recently as last month, the state reported only 8,500 deaths-a number that excluded residents who died after being taken to hospitals.

"All the deaths in the nursing homes and hospitals were always fully, publicly and accurately reported," the governor said, weeks after the state was forced to acknowledge that its count of nursing home deaths excluded thousands who perished after being taken to hospitals.

He explained that as a difference of "categorization", with the state counting where deaths occurred and others seeking total deaths of nursing home residents, regardless of the location.

Agencies contributed to this story.

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