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Hochul hires firm for Cuomo-led post-election COVID response survey in New York

Governor Kathy Hochul has awarded a $4.3million contract to investigate Andrew Cuomo’s New York-led response to the coronavirus outbreak – drawing fire from critics who accuse her of slowing the investigation until after Tuesday’s election.

The one-year contract is awarded to consultant Olson Group, an emergency management company in Alexandria, Virginia. Hochul, who served as lieutenant governor during the pandemic, first announced the planned inquiry in July.

But critics say the timing of the company’s hiring is curious – announced in the final days of a gubernatorial campaign where Hochul is fighting for his political life in a tighter-than-expected race against the Republican opponent Lee Zeldin.

“Given that COVID has killed more than 75,000 New Yorkers — and the next virus could arrive at any moment — one would have expected state leaders to show more urgency to study how to improve their operations,” said Bill Hammond, healthcare analyst at Empire. Center for Public Policy, in a blog post.

“The hiring came more than two and a half years after the state learned how tragically unprepared it was for a major pandemic, and 15 months after a governor resigned rather than face a impeachment in part because of his handling of the crisis,” he wrote.

Disgraced former New York Governor Andrew Cuomo has come under intense scrutiny for his response to COVID-19.
AP Photo/Seth Wenig, File

The results of the review could be explosive, examining life-or-death decisions made during the worst period of the COVID-19 outbreak, not just by the disgraced ex-governor. Cuomo, but also the politically powerful hospital and nursing home industries that now largely support Hochul.

An unrestrained investigation could also call into question Hochul’s role in decision-making during the pandemic.

The contract award was first reported by Spectrum News’ State of Politics.

Hammond has reservations about the study, which is overseen by the governor’s office and the state’s Homeland Security Division. He said the investigation into what happened should be independent and the consultant should have the power to subpoena for information.

“There’s very little reason to believe they’ll rock the boat,” he told the Post.

New York Governor Kathy Hochul makes an announcement on gun safety in the Red Room of the State Capitol on Monday, October 24, 2022, in Albany, NY
Governor Kathy Hochul has awarded a $4.3 million contract to investigate the Cuomo-led response.
Hans Pennink

“So far, the Hochul administration’s efforts on this front are sending worrying signals. Comprehensive analysis of New York’s response to a disaster as large as COVID-19 should be a major and urgent priority for the state government – not something to be grudgingly tackled years later by a consultant with a lean budget.

Cuomo has come under fire for a controversial March 2020 edict that required nursing homes to accept the recovery of COVID-19 patients discharged from hospitals, even though the former governor himself had previously said the highly contagious killer virus s spread through the facilities like “fire through dry grass” – killing more than 15,000 frail and immunocompromised elderly residents.

Investigative reports from state Attorney General Letitia James and Comptroller Tom DiNapoli found the Cuomo administration initially underreported nursing home deaths by half and The Post exposed a strategy to cover up the real results in the middle of a federal investigation.

The former governor also infuriated many New Yorkers by writing a for-profit $5 million memoir about his handling of the pandemic, accusing him of profiting off the backs of the deceased. He also asked government personnel to help write the book, titled “American Crisis: Leadership Lessons from the COVID-19 Pandemic.”

Leaders of Voices for Seniors, the main advocacy group for thousands of nursing home families whose loved ones have been killed by COVID, said Hochul let them down and endorsed Lee Zeldin for governor.

“If Governor Hochul can sit in a room in front of weeping, heartbroken families while promising an investigation and has failed to deliver on his promises; how can we trust that she will keep any promise made to her constituents,” the group said in a statement endorsing Zeldin.

Vivian Zayas, co-founder of Voices for Seniors and whose mother, Ana Martinez, died of COVID in a Long Island nursing home, said: ‘We believe our calls for justice will no longer fall on the ears. of a deaf under the Zeldin administration. We have not forgotten and will not forget that Governor Hochul abandoned our families.

In this April 17, 2020 file photo, a patient is loaded into an ambulance by emergency medical workers outside Cobble Hill Health Center in the Brooklyn borough of New York.
COVID-19 has killed more than 75,000 New Yorkers.
AP Photo/John Minchillo, File

Zeldin – who has promised to appoint a special prosecutor to investigate pandemic-related nursing home deaths if elected – has accused Hochul of being “complicit” in COVID-related scandals because he was Lieutenant Governor of Cuomo when they happened and “she knows it.”

“Hochul never said a word about the administration’s deadly order and cover-up. She remained silent as state Health Department officials visited the private residences of family and friends of the administration to provide VIP testing early in the pandemic,” Zeldin said.

“Hochul Stayed AWOL as Taxpayer-Funded Administration Staffers Were Misused to Write Andrew Cuomo’s $5.1 Million Self-Congratulatory Book…Instead of Quick Responses , she drags her feet just long enough for the first results to come out only after November. election. New York voters have an opportunity on November 8 to stop this corrupt machine once and for all.

Hochul’s office said the governor was keeping his promise of an unrestricted investigation.

“New Yorkers who have lived at the epicenter of a global pandemic, who have lost loved ones and who have experienced economic hardship deserve a thoughtful, meaningful and independent after-action review, and that is exactly what we we strive to deliver,” Hochul said. spokesperson Hazel Crampton-Hays.

“We have identified the Olson Group as the successful bidder for the tender for a contract worth up to $4.3 million, and are moving forward with the contract approval process.”