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Andrew Cuomo agrees to testify to Congress on Covid-19 nursing home advisory

<i>Seth Wenig/AP/File via CNN Newsource</i><br/>Former New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo
Seth Wenig/AP/File via CNN Newsource
Former New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo

By Jake Tapper and Piper Hudspeth Blackburn, CNN

(CNN) — Former New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, after being subpoenaed last month, has agreed to testify to Congress about his controversial nursing home advisory from the early days of the Covid-19 pandemic, Rep. Brad Wenstrup told CNN’s Jake Tapper on Friday.

“Governor Cuomo will be appearing before our select Subcommittee on the Pandemic on June 11,” Wenstrup, the Ohio Republican who chairs the panel, said on “The Lead.”  “This will be a transcribed interview at 10 a.m.”

Wenstrup said that lawmakers want to ask the former Democratic governor about the March 2020 advisory, which barred nursing homes from rejecting patients solely on the basis of a Covid-19 diagnosis.

“I’m trying to learn why he would do something like this,” Wenstrup said. “As a doctor who has treated infections, it goes against all medical common sense to take someone who was highly contagious and put them amongst the most vulnerable.”

In a March 5 letter to Cuomo sent along with the subpoena, Wenstrup alleged that the “misguided decision effectively admitted thousands of COVID-19 positive patients into nursing homes, causing predictable but deadly consequences for New York’s most vulnerable.”

Wenstrup said Friday that the committee started reaching out to Cuomo roughly nine months ago, and the panel was “ignored on many of our requests, there were delays.”

When reached for comment, Rich Azzopardi, a spokesperson for Cuomo, told CNN,  “There’s no news here, we agreed to do this months ago.” In response, the committee said that Cuomo did not actually confirm a date for the interview until two days ago.

Cuomo has insisted that advisory was consistent with guidance from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. However, his upcoming appearance before lawmakers is a sign of continuing scrutiny over his handling of long-term care facilities during the pandemic.

The voluntary agreement means that Cuomo will participate with a transcribed interview rather than a deposition. Both formats require participants to tell the truth to Congress.

2021 investigation by New York Attorney General Letitia James, a Democrat, found that the New York State Department of Health undercounted Covid-19 deaths among residents of nursing homes by approximately 50%, essentially by leaving out deaths of residents who had been transferred to hospitals. A 2022 audit by State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli concluded that Cuomo’s health department failed to report roughly 4,100 deaths between April 2020 and February 2021.

When pressed by Tapper if there was actual evidence of an alleged cover up, Wenstrup said, “Well, he’s going to have the opportunity to deny that again and take a look at what some of the other people are saying actually took place and whether it was intentional to play those numbers down or whether it was just miscounting.”

In 2021, CNN’s KFile found that Cuomo downplayed lags in nursing home patient and death data and defended his administration from allegations of wrongdoing, according to a review of his daily press conferences from spring 2020 in which nursing homes were mentioned.

Wenstrup told Tapper on Friday that the panel will also hear from Cuomo’s former secretary Melissa DeRosa and former commissioner of the New York State Department of Health Dr. Howard Zucker. After the interview aired, Nelson A. Boxer, an attorney for Zucker, confirmed to CNN that Zucker had sat for a voluntary, transcribed interview with the committee’s counsel in December 2023 and has not been contacted for additional discussion.

Cuomo was first elected governor in 2010 and served nearly three full terms before he resigned in August 2021 following the release of a report by James’ office that found he had sexually harassed 11 women. Cuomo has denied the allegations.

This story has been updated with additional developments.

CNN’s Veronica Stracqualursi and Kaanita Iyer contributed to this report.

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