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Biden COVID panel member distances himself from Andrew Cuomo

A top member of President Joe Biden’s COVID panel is distancing himself from New York Governor Andrew Cuomo, denying Cuomo’s claim that he was a ‘chief advisor’.

Dr. Michael Osterholm, an infectious disease expert with the University of Minnesota, was the latest to distance himself from Cuomo as fallout grows from the governor’s nursing home deaths scandal.

Cuomo’s administration had claimed Osterholm was a ‘chief advisor’ who spoke with the governor on a ‘regular basis’ — claims the epidemiologist was quick to deny on Thursday.

‘I’ve had one, five-minute conversation in my entire life with Governor Cuomo, just a few weeks ago when he called me, just to congratulate me on a TV program appearance,’ Osterholm told the PBS program Firing Line.

Dr. Michael Osterholm, an infectious disease expert with the University of Minnesota

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo

Dr. Michael Osterholm, an infectious disease expert with the University of Minnesota, denied New York Governor Andrew Cuomo’s claim that he was a ‘chief advisor’

Bodies are removed from a Brooklyn hospital last April.  More than 15,000 people have died in New York state's nursing homes and long term care facilities from the virus, but as recently as last month, the state reported only 8,500 deaths

Bodies are removed from a Brooklyn hospital last April.  More than 15,000 people have died in New York state's nursing homes and long term care facilities from the virus, but as recently as last month, the state reported only 8,500 deaths

Bodies are removed from a Brooklyn hospital last April.  More than 15,000 people have died in New York state’s nursing homes and long term care facilities from the virus, but as recently as last month, the state reported only 8,500 deaths

Cuomo has faced fierce backlash, calls to resign, and a federal investigation after one of his top aides admitted this month that his administration had intentionally hid the true pandemic death toll in the state’s nursing homes to avoid a scandal that could benefit Donald Trump.

What is Cuomo’s nursing home scandal?

Last March, Cuomo ordered nursing homes in New York to accept COVID-positive patients and bar testing prospective patients. 

Cuomo rescinded the order in May, blaming the Trump administration and claiming New York’s nursing home death rate was still less than many other states.  

Last month, state Attorney General Letitia James concluded that the Cuomo administration undercounted COVID-19-related deaths at nursing homes by as much as 50 percent.

A top aide to the governor admitted on February 12 that the administration had intentionally delayed releasing the true death toll, fearing it would spur a federal investigation that could have benefited Donald Trump in the 2020 election. 

More than 15,000 people have died in New York state’s nursing homes and long term care facilities from the virus, but as recently as last month, the state reported only 8,500 deaths. 

More than 15,000 people have died in New York state’s nursing homes and long term care facilities from the virus, but as recently as last month, the state reported only 8,500 deaths. 

Asked about Cuomo’s handling of the nursing home issue, Osterholm denied any involvement. 

‘First of all, I haven’t had, not had anything to do with his nursing home activity at all,’ said Osterholm. ‘I came on basically in early June only just to review data on a weekly basis; did it meet the standards that they had set?’ 

Interviewer Margaret Hoover pressed Osterholm on his claim, saying: ‘You said you’ve only spoken to Governor Cuomo once, but one of his top aides said that [Cuomo] spoke to you on a regular basis, that you were one of his top advisors.’

‘That’s absolutely not true,’ Osterholm cut in. ‘Never true. I’ve had one, five-minute conversation, which was a surprise.’

‘I have a paper trail of all of the emails,’ he added. ‘All I ever was asked to do is, did this meet the red, green, or yellow zone numbers? And that was it. I’ve never, I’ve not had a discussion with him and I’ve not met with any of them. I’ve never had a Zoom call with any of them.’

Following the interview, top Cuomo spokesman Rich Azzopardi said in a statement: ‘Dr Olsterholm played a role as a chief advisor on reopening and our fall micro cluster strategy — he advised the gov through our core team, who he spoke to on a regular basis.’ 

It comes as Cuomo’s isolation deepens, with New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio calling for a blue-ribbon commission to investigate his handling of nursing homes.

During an interview with Bloomberg Wednesday, de Blasio said he supported the idea of forming an independent ‘Moreland Commission’ – using the Moreland Act – to probe claims Cuomo purposely under-reported the death toll in state nursing homes.  

‘The whole thing has to be examined,’ de Blasio insisted. ‘We need the full truth.

‘It’s extraordinarily troubling on a human level because we don’t even know what it would’ve meant — how many lives might’ve been saved if things had been done differently.’

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio is calling for a blue-ribbon commission to investigate Cuomo's handling of nursing homes in the pandemic

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio is calling for a blue-ribbon commission to investigate Cuomo's handling of nursing homes in the pandemic

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio is calling for a blue-ribbon commission to investigate Cuomo’s handling of nursing homes in the pandemic

Cuomo is already being investigated by the FBI and the US Attorney’s Office in Brooklyn over the alleged cover-up. 

If enacted, the Moreland Act allows the governor, in person or through those appointed by the governor, to investigate the management and affairs of any department, board, bureau or commission in New York state. 

Meanwhile, the sons of a COVID victim have slammed Cuomo for ‘lying’ and ‘deflecting’ about the deaths.

Daniel and Peter Arbeeny, whose father Norman died with the virus in April last year, said the Cuomo brothers have been ‘deflecting’ from the issues.

Daniel told Fox & Friends about Cuomo: ‘He’s consistently lied and gaslighted us and called us names from the beginning.’

Daniel and Peter’s father, 89, had a long hospital stay last April where they say he was ‘neglected’ and later sent to the Cobble Hill nursing home. 

Their father died 12 hours after testing positive for COVID but his cause of death was listed as heart disease and he was not counted in the pandemic death toll, according to reports. 

Daniel and Peter Arbeeny, whose father Norman died with the virus in May last year, said the Cuomo brothers have been 'deflecting' from the care home deaths scandal

Daniel and Peter Arbeeny, whose father Norman died with the virus in May last year, said the Cuomo brothers have been 'deflecting' from the care home deaths scandal

Daniel and Peter Arbeeny, whose father Norman died with the virus in May last year, said the Cuomo brothers have been ‘deflecting’ from the care home deaths scandal

Norman (pictured) had a long hospital stay before he was moved to a nursing home after Cuomo had ordered hospitals to transfer patients

Norman (pictured) had a long hospital stay before he was moved to a nursing home after Cuomo had ordered hospitals to transfer patients

Norman (pictured) had a long hospital stay before he was moved to a nursing home after Cuomo had ordered hospitals to transfer patients

Governor Andrew Cuomo appeared on his young brother Chris' CNN show more than ten times last year despite the network's 2013 ban on his interviewing family members

Governor Andrew Cuomo appeared on his young brother Chris' CNN show more than ten times last year despite the network's 2013 ban on his interviewing family members

Governor Andrew Cuomo appeared on his young brother Chris’ CNN show more than ten times last year despite the network’s 2013 ban on his interviewing family members

The brothers also criticized Cuomo’s brother Andrew Cuomo, the CNN host, for failing to address the governor’s handling of nursing homes on his show.  

CNN has offered little coverage of the scandal and Chris, 50, failed to mention his brother at all while addressing the biggest COVID stories of the day on his Monday show.

After a backlash, the network reportedly reinstated a ban on Chris interviewing Andrew, despite the Governor appearing on CNN more than ten times in the past year to receive praise.

The decision to reinstate the fraternal ban after an extended break comes after months of praise being heaped on the governor by his brother in more than ten appearances on his show.

In one interview on June 24, Chris readily admitted that he was incapable of objectively when it came to his brother.

‘I’m wowed by what you did. And, more importantly, I’m wowed by how you did it, very hard I know it’s not over,’ he said.

‘Obviously, I love you as my brother. Obviously, I’m not able to be objective. Obviously, I think you’re the best politician in the country but I hope you feel good about what you did for your people.’  


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bourbiza

Bourbiza Mohamed. Writer and Political Discourse Analysis.

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