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Cuomo still faces probes into COVID-19 in nursing homes, $5.1M book deal

Nursing home residents wait on line to receive

Nursing home residents wait on line to receive a COVID-19 vaccine at Harlem Center for Nursing and Rehabilitation, a nursing home facility in Harlem, on Jan. 15. Credit: AP/Yuki Iwamura

ALBANY — Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo, who announced his resignation Tuesday, had been facing multiple investigations during what proves to be his final year in office. Though an investigation that found he sexually harassed women was the main force behind his resignation, there were other probes.

It is unclear how or if those probes will continue, once the Democrat's resignation becomes effective on Aug. 24. Here’s a look at them:

Nursing homes

Cuomo is under fire for two issues here: A directive that nursing homes had to take back residents who had been hospitalized for COVID-19 once they had recovered, and a decision on how to tally pandemic deaths that hid the true toll on nursing home patients.

Critics have said the Cuomo policy regarding readmitting patients — instituted early in the pandemic but rescinded a short time later — increased the number of deaths among nursing home residents. Analysts have said that although the policy wasn’t a "driving" factor among the more than 15,000 deaths, it certainly increased the number.

Cuomo has said he was following federal guidelines about nursing homes at the time.

Separately, the administration had been refusing to release data regarding nursing home deaths. At a testy hearing in summer 2020, officials told state legislators they would produce a report soon. But it never happened.

Then in January, Attorney General Letitia James issued a report saying the Cuomo administration likely had vastly undercounted nursing home deaths related to the pandemic — by as much as 50 percent.

The administration released numbers — showing deaths more than 40% higher than previously reported. It blamed the lower figure on fears the Trump administration would use them to attack Cuomo politically.

The U.S. Justice Department and the Assembly impeachment committee have been investigating the issue.

Book deal

Cuomo scored a $5.1 million contract to produce a memoir about his experience during the pandemic, "American Crisis: Leadership Lessons from the COVID-19 Pandemic."

But James and the Assembly now are investigating whether Cuomo used state personnel and resources to produce the book, a possible violation of state law.

News organizations have reported that Cuomo staff members worked on the book, including editing drafts, sitting in on public relations planning meetings and printing and delivering drafts.

Cuomo has said that any staff help was on a voluntary basis, though some minor work might have been "incidental." His staff has called the probe politically motivated.

COVID-19 testing

Federal officials and the Assembly are looking at news reports that Cuomo family members and other influential people were given priority access to COVID-19 testing early on in the pandemic, when such tests were scarce.

Among those that received the tests reportedly were Chris Cuomo, the governor’s brother and CNN anchor; and Giorgio DeRosa, a prominent lobbyist and father of Melissa DeRosa, the governor’s top adviser who had resigned two days before the governor announced he was stepping down.

A lawyer representing Cuomo in the federal investigation has said the testing was proper, given the individuals were coming in contact with the governor or aides who were coming in contact with the governor.

Pressure for support

James and the Assembly also are investigating whether Cuomo’s "vaccine czar" pressured county leaders to support the embattled governor while discussing vaccine distribution.

Larry Schwartz, the governor’s former secretary who was brought in to run vaccine distribution, reportedly has acknowledged he contacted Democrats to gauge their support for Cuomo amid the scandals.

But the administration has denied the conversations were linked to the vaccine program. Some county officials, however, reportedly have said they felt pressured because the Schwartz phone call came immediately after a conversation with other officials about the vaccine.

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