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Cuomo questions neutrality of AG investigators

Cuomo questions neutrality of AG investigators

Gov. Andrew Cuomo has projected confidence that he’ll ultimately be exonerated of allegations of sexual harassmentBy MARINA VILLENEUVE Associated PressJuly 26, 2021, 10:42 PM• 3 min readShare to FacebookShare to TwitterEmail this articleNEW YORK — Gov. Andrew Cuomo projected confidence Monday that he’ll ultimately be exonerated of allegations of sexual harassment, but he also questioned the neutrality of the lawyers hired to investigate his behavior.Speaking at his first news conference in nearly two weeks, Cuomo said he had “concerns as to the independence of the reviewers,” hired by state Attorney General Letitia James.Attacking the integrity of the investigation is an approach Cuomo has increasingly turned to in recent weeks — to the irritation of some members of his own party who had widely praised the lawyers leading the probe as apolitical and fair.James appointed Joon Kim, the former acting U.S. attorney for Manhattan, and the employment discrimination attorney Anne Clark to conduct the probe. The lawyers have spent months now speaking to women who say Cuomo subjected them to inappropriate kisses and touching or inappropriate sexual remarks. One woman, an aide to Cuomo, has said he groped her breasts.“Do a little history. Go to Google,” Cuomo told reporters at a press conference at Yankee Stadium in the Bronx. “Google the independent investigators.”He didn’t elaborate, but his comments appeared to be a reference to Kim’s work as a federal prosecutor. In that role, Kim helped direct an anti-corruption investigation that sent one of Cuomo’s top aides and close friends, Joseph Percoco, to prison. Percoco was convicted of accepting more than $300,000 from companies that wanted influence with Cuomo’s administration.Kim also was a senior figure in the U.S. attorney’s office during its investigation of corruption in Cuomo’s “Buffalo Billion” economic development program. A Cuomo ally, the former head of the State University of New York’s Polytechnic Institute was convicted.The chair of the New York Assembly’s judiciary committee, Charles Lavine, wrote a letter to Cuomo last week warning his office to stop disparaging the investigators. At the time, Cuomo’s spokesperson, Rich Azzopardi, had been implying on social media that James’ investigation was motivated by a desire to run for governor.“It is obvious that attempts to demean the Attorney General serve as well to undermine the investigation and send profoundly negative signals to witnesses,” Lavine wrote.Throughout the spring, as he faced calls for his resignation, Cuomo had taken a different approach, praising James and her team and urging the public to wait for the results of the investigation before judging his conduct.“Let the Attorney General do her job,” he said in March. “She’s very good. She’s very competent. And that will be due process and then we’ll have the facts.”Cuomo, James and Lavine are all Democrats.Cuomo was said to have been scheduled to meet two weekends ago with James’ investigators. Azzopardi has declined to say whether that meeting took place.Cuomo, who has denied allegations he inappropriately touched female aides and other women, said he is “eager” for New Yorkers to get the facts of what happened.“And I think when they hear the actual facts of what happened and how the situation has been handled, I think they’re going to be shocked, shocked,” he said.Separately, another team of lawyers working for the state Assembly is investigating whether there are grounds to impeach Cuomo. James’ report is expected to play a critical role in the Assembly’s impeachment inquiry, though Lavine’s committee has hired its own team of lawyers to gather evidence.

DOJ says no probe into state-run nursing homes in New York

DOJ says no probe into state-run nursing homes in New York

The Justice Department says it has decided not to open a civil rights investigation into government-run nursing homes in New York over their COVID-19 responseBy MARINA VILLENEUVE Associated PressJuly 24, 2021, 9:29 AM• 2 min readShare to FacebookShare to TwitterEmail this articleALBANY, N.Y. — The Justice Department has decided not to open a civil rights investigation into government-run nursing homes in New York over their COVID-19 response, according to a letter sent Friday to several Republican members of Congress.Under former President Donald Trump’s administration, the department’s civil rights division requested data last August from four states — New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Michigan — about the number of COVID-19 infections and deaths in public nursing homes.The request came amid still-unanswered questions about whether some states, especially New York, inadvertently worsened the pandemic death toll by requiring nursing homes to accept residents previously hospitalized for COVID-19.In a letter sent to several Republicans who had demanded an investigation, Deputy Assistant Attorney General Joe Gaeta said civil rights division lawyers had reviewed the data sent by New York, along with additional information.“Based on that review, we have decided not to open a CRIPA investigation of any public nursing facility within New York at this time,” Gaeta wrote, referring to the federal Civil Rights of Institutionalized Persons Act, which empowers the Justice Department to investigate allegations about unlawful conditions in government-run residences.The Justice Department sent similar letters earlier in the week to officials in Pennsylvania and Michigan.Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s spokesperson, Richard Azzopardi, declined to comment.Cuomo, a Democrat, has previously accused Trump’s Department of Justice of initiating the inquiry for purely political reasons. He has also defended the decision to bar nursing homes from rejecting COVID-19 patients during the worst weeks of the pandemic, saying the state was desperate at the time to move recovering patients out of overwhelmed hospitals.Friday’s letter doesn’t address the status of other Justice Department inquiries into how the Cuomo administration handled data related to COVID-19 outbreaks at nursing homes.Federal prosecutors have been examining the governor’s coronavirus task force and trying to determine whether the state intentionally manipulated data regarding nursing home deaths, The Associated Press previously reported.More than 15,800 people have died in nursing homes and assisted living residences in New York. The state’s original count of the dead had been much lower because it had excluded thousands of people who got infected in nursing homes, but died in hospitals.

NY lifts more COVID-19 rules as it hits vaccination mark

NY lifts more COVID-19 rules as it hits vaccination mark

Gov. Andrew Cuomo says that 70% of adults in New York have received at least one dose of a coronavirus vaccine, a threshold he said the state would celebrate by easing many of its remaining social distancing rules and shooting off fireworksBy MARINA VILLENEUVE Associated PressJune 15, 2021, 10:29 PM• 4 min readShare to FacebookShare to TwitterEmail this articleGov. Andrew Cuomo said Tuesday that 70% of adults in New York have received at least one dose of a coronavirus vaccine, a threshold he said the state would celebrate by easing many of its remaining social distancing rules and shooting off fireworks.“What does 70% mean? It means that we can now return to life as we know it,” Cuomo told an invitation-only crowd at the World Trade Center in Manhattan.Effective immediately, he said, the state is lifting rules that required many types of businesses to follow cleaning protocols or take people’s temperatures or screen them for recent COVID-19 symptoms.Movie theaters will no longer have to leave empty seats between patrons. Restaurants will no longer be forced to sit parties at least 6 feet (2 meters) apart. Stores won’t have to limit how many customers they admit. New York had previously allowed businesses to stop enforcing social distancing and mask rules for vaccinated patrons.Some rules will remain: New Yorkers, for now, will continue to have to wear masks in schools, subways, large sports arenas, homeless shelters, hospitals, nursing homes, jails and prisons. Unvaccinated New Yorkers will still be subject to a mask mandate while indoors in public places.Cuomo, a Democrat, said there would be fireworks displays around the state Tuesday evening to celebrate and honor essential workers.New York has, essentially, been at that 70 percent mark for days. It reached 69.5% of adults vaccinated Saturday, and 69.9% on Monday.But Cuomo said New York would remember Tuesday, June 15 — also the birthdate of his late father, the former Gov. Mario Cuomo — as the date when New York “rose again.”It’s unclear how many more people have to get vaccinated to reach herd immunity from the coronavirus, which is when so many people are resistant to the virus that it has trouble spreading.Many experts say it’s 70% or higher. So far, about 50 percent of New Yorkers, of all ages, are fully vaccinated, according to federal data.Dr. Anna Bershteyn, professor of population health at the New York University Grossman School of Medicine said the rise of more contagious variants could mean that as much as 85% of the population will need to be vaccinated for herd immunity.She urged the public to keep avoiding crowded, poorly ventilated indoor spaces in less-vaccinated communities.“It’s the unvaccinated people sharing air in a stuffy space that really is the dangerous situation where a superspreading event can easily happen,” Bershteyn said.Since Jan. 1, about 1.1 million people have tested positive for the coronavirus in New York, according to state data, but new infections have plummeted this spring.Over the past seven days, New York has been averaging around 430 new coronavirus cases a day, the lowest recorded level since the pandemic began. Fewer than 620 virus patients were hospitalized statewide, the lowest level since late August.The pace of vaccinations has slowed substantially. New York administered nearly 582,000 doses over the past seven days, down from a onetime average of 1 million doses each week.New York has tried to boost vaccination rates by offering a $5 million lottery scratch ticket and raffling off four-years public college scholarships.The vaccination rate also lags in some communities, including in some rural counties and parts of New York City.Only about 30% of the population is vaccinated in Allegany County, a rural area in western New York. Black New Yorkers also have significantly lower vaccination rates in the state than most other demographic groups.Also Tuesday, health officials announced that nearly 900 people received expired COVID-19 vaccine doses at a vaccination site in Times Square earlier this month. The 899 people who received doses of the Pfizer vaccine at the former NFL Experience building in Times Square between June 5 and June 10 should schedule another Pfizer shot as soon as possible, the New York City Health Department said.———Follow AP’s coverage of the pandemic at https://apnews.com/hub/coronavirus-pandemic.