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New York Assemblyman Ron Kim, a Democrat representing part of Queens, has been one of Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s most vocal critics since the start of the pandemic.
In particular, Kim has criticized the Cuomo administration’s Health Department’s order to nursing homes to admit COVID-positive patients discharged from hospitals, and the administration’s lack of transparency over the data related to nursing home deaths.
Over the past few weeks, New York’s attorney general released a report showing the state had undercounted the number of COVID nursing home deaths by about 50%, Cuomo senior aide Melissa DeRosa admitted in a conference call with some New York Democrats that the administration “froze” out of fear of a DOJ investigation when the legislature requested nursing home data, and a bipartisan group of lawmakers called for Cuomo to be stripped of the emergency powers he has held since the start of the pandemic.
Kim said Cuomo called him personally and threatened to “destroy” him if he did not amend his previous comments about what DeRosa had said on last week’s conference call. This week, a spokesman for the governor said Kim is “lying” about these allegations, and Cuomo accused Kim of accepting “unethical if not illegal” political donations.
Insider columnist Anthony Fisher spoke with Assemblyman Kim by phone on Friday about feeling “terrified” by the sounds of a screaming Cuomo, why the nursing home catastrophe hits him so personally, and why he thinks the Cuomo administration’s investigation of itself was “complete bullshit.”
This interview has been edited for length, context, and clarity.
A little more than a month into the pandemic in April 2020, you posted a video talking about the surge in deaths at nursing homes in Queens — which was the US’ COVID epicenter at the time.
What made you jump on this issue so early?
It was a very frantic, desperate email from a constituent. I spoke to her on the phone and by the next morning I met her at the nursing home to get to the bottom of what was going on. I emailed and called the nursing home director, but he wasn’t responding.
So I took a softer approach and told him we want to drop off some PPE for you. He came out and I started talking to him. He told me over a hundred people died and it hadn’t been reported. He didn’t know how to handle it, and the Department of Health hadn’t done anything to support him.
And that’s when I realized, “Holy shit. Something is happening and we need to get ahead of this. More people might die.”
That’s when I really started investigating what was going on. And during that time, a couple of articles came out that publicized the situation and people kept piling on texts, emails, Facebook [messages and tweets] telling me about other loved ones and citing similar situations.
The Cuomo administration’s Department of Health last summer investigated and cleared itself of any wrongdoing with regards to nursing home deaths.
What was your …read more
Source:: Business Insider