We don't hold New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo and his administration personally liable for the deaths of more than 40,000 New Yorkers from COVID-19, or for the more than 15,000 nursing home and adult care facility residents among that tally. Anyone who currently claims, with what information is available, that they can lay blame for all those deaths at Cuomo's feet is being disingenuous.

What's difficult to excuse, though, is the fact Cuomo and his team took so long to release the full count of nursing home and other adult care facility deaths, and misled New Yorkers about the reason for the delay.

A new recording of a meeting between Cuomo's top aide Melissa DeRosa and some Democratic state lawmakers undermines the rationale the state Health Department offered for months as an excuse for why it was taking them so long to give New Yorkers real answers about how many nursing home residents had succumbed to COVID. In August, State Health Commissioner Dr. Howard Zucker blamed the delay on tedious, ongoing efforts to ensure its accuracy before releasing it publicly.

DeRosa's explanation was different: The state stonewalled legislators' requests for data because they feared President Donald Trump's unscrupulous Justice Department would "use" the data "against us." At the time, DOJ had launched investigations into nursing home deaths in states led by Democratic governors, despite the fact nearly all states across the country, both Democrat- and Republican-led, experienced severe nursing home COVID outbreaks and deaths.

Though convenient, the Trump bogeyman was no excuse to keep the public in the dark on a matter of intense, life-and-death interest. Nor did it match up with reality: Even when Joe Biden became president, Cuomo kept fighting freedom of information requests — until a court order forced his hand.

The cover-up is always worse than the crime. For this one, executed via repeated misleading statements to the public, there must be consequences, starting with a better explanation and some true contrition from Cuomo.