House panel demands info from former Cuomo top aide on nursing home deaths

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Republican members of the House select subcommittee on the coronavirus pandemic are demanding answers from a top aide to former New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) regarding the state’s COVID-19 nursing home policies. 

Committee Chairman Rep. Brad Wenstrup (R-Ohio) and Rep. Nicole Malliotakis (R-N.Y.) said Melissa DeRosa’s claims that she was not involved in New York’s COVID-19 nursing home directive are undermined by passages in her own book. 

“These seemingly false assertations contradict statements made by Ms. DeRosa in her new tell-all book and differ significantly from publicly reported information about Ms. DeRosa’s role in the Cuomo administration during the pandemic,” the lawmakers said.  

The committee earlier this month requested DeRosa sit for a transcribed interview and provide documents regarding Cuomo’s “must admit” order, which said nursing homes could not turn away patients who tested positive for COVID-19, as long as they were medically stable.

The facilities were also prohibited from requiring hospitalized residents to be tested for the virus before their admission or readmission in nursing homes. 

The move was made early in the pandemic and was meant to help relieve overburdened hospitals, which were sending patients elsewhere to help free up capacity.  

According to the lawmakers, less than seven hours after the subcommittee initially requested DeRosa’s testimony, her attorney claimed that she did not have any responsive documents. 

But the lawmakers noted that in her new book, DeRosa said she took copious notes on the job because she recognized “the gravity of what we were living through” during the pandemic. She started writing her book within a week of her resignation from the administration. 

DeRosa’s attorney Greg Morvillo disputed the committee’s claims that she’s retained any of the information the committee wants, especially two years after she stopped working for the state.

“Ms. DeRosa does not have possession of any official COVID documents from her time with the state, as they were properly left in the possession of the state.  Any personal notes taken, which did not include anything related to nursing homes, were overwritten and incorporated into her book, What’s Left Unsaid, which can be purchased on Amazon or wherever books are sold,” Morvillo said in a statement to The Hill.

The House panel is investigating COVID-19 nursing home policy decisions made by Cuomo, as well as the Democratic leaders of New Jersey and Pennsylvania. 

COVID-19 decimated nursing homes, killing more than 15,000 people in New York alone. Cuomo’s policies have come under state and federal investigation, and former members of his administration are facing waves of civil lawsuits on behalf of those who died. 

Attorney General Letitia James’s (D) office issued a report in 2021 that found the state health department undercounted COVID-19 deaths in nursing homes by as much as 50 percent. 

Wenstrup and Malliotakis requested a transcribed interview with DeRosa under oath on Jan. 19, and asked for an attestation that she did not retain a journal or any notes from her time in the Cuomo administration. 

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