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Hochul insists 'transparency will be the hallmark of my administration'

'The public deserves a clear, honest picture of what’s happening, and that’s whether it’s good or bad. They need to know the truth,' Gov. Hochul said on NPR.

ALBANY, N.Y. — Delivering another blow to what’s left of former Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s legacy, New York’s new governor acknowledged on her first day in office that the state has had nearly 12,000 more deaths from COVID-19 than Cuomo told the public.

“The public deserves a clear, honest picture of what’s happening, and that’s whether it’s good or bad. They need to know the truth, and that’s how we restore confidence,” Gov. Kathy Hochul said on NPR.

In its first daily update on the outbreak Tuesday evening, Hochul’s office reported that nearly 55,400 people have died of the coronavirus in New York based on death certificate data submitted to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

That’s up from about 43,400 that Cuomo reported to the public as of Monday, his last day in office. The Democrat who was once widely acclaimed for his leadership during the COVID-19 outbreak resigned in the face of an impeachment drive after being accused of sexually harassing at least 11 women, allegations he disputed.

"Simply it's about being more transparent, releasing the data as we get it and also not releasing one set of nursing home deaths. There are presumed and confirmed deaths. People should know both. As of yesterday, we're using CDC numbers which will be consistent. There's no opportunity for us to mask those numbers, nor do I want to mask those numbers," Hochul told NPR.

It's a necessary change, according to Bill Hammond, senior fellow for health policy at the Empire Center

"I thought it was a really important first step but it's only a first step. It's important because symbolically the previous governor Andrew Cuomo was understating various indicators of New York's pandemic," Hammond said.

However, he added even more transparency is still needed, along with a further breakdown of those numbers.

As for how this could impact Cuomo moving forward, local attorney Paul Cambria offered legal analysis. 

"I'm sure we're not anywhere near the end of this," Cambria said. 

He added, "There was some talk of a federal probe and whether or not there would be some sort of fraudulent statement in connection with reporting that was done by officials at various nursing homes or reporting through the governor's office. Anything like that where there were false or inaccurate statements could always be the subject of an investigation." 

2 On Your Side reached out to the Hochul's press office to ask if Cuomo or Health Commissioner Dr. Howard Zucker could face any additional consequences, legal or otherwise, and if Dr. Zucker will remain in her administration.

We didn't get a direct answer but a spokesperson did say the governor established an informal 45-day window to assess personnel decisions, which includes cabinet.

Statement from Haley Viccaro, Senior Advisor for Communications:

“Governor Hochul is deeply committed to transparency and restoring trust in government. Upon advice from and consultation with the Department of Health, starting on day one of the Hochul Administration, we began including an additional data set from the CDC in the daily reports to be as open and transparent as possible. This data set, which is death certificate numbers that have been reported to and compiled by the CDC, was not included before in the State's daily reports. We will always prioritize open communication with New Yorkers as we work together to battle the pandemic."