“#Pols push for independent probe of COVID-19 deaths in New York nursing homes”
August 19, 2020 | 7:45pm
NYC EMTs move a patient from a Brooklyn nursing home into an ambulance in April.
The legislation, if passed, would establish a five-member commission to conduct an investigation with subpoena power and perform a top-to-bottom review of what happened in the state’s 613 nursing home facilities during the coronavirus pandemic.
The commission — which would purposely not include a Cuomo appointee — would probe the measures taken by nursing homes to ensure the safety of their residents during the crisis, the coronavirus-related death rates of residents in the facilities, and the effectiveness of state and federal laws, as well as “executive orders, rules, regulations and recommendations governing the response of nursing homes to COVID-19,” the bill says.
“We need closure — we need closure for the people who lost those family members, and they deserve the answers because there’s several disconnects that took place here,” state Sen. Jim Tedisco (R-Glenville), the chief sponsor of the bill, said at the state capitol in Albany Wednesday.
Tedisco pointed to Cuomo’s Health Department’s controversial March 25 mandate barring the facilities from turning away coronavirus-positive patients — and how a recent DOH report “absolved” the three-term Democratic governor when it claimed that the policy was not responsible for spreading infection and death among frail residents.
The state order, which Cuomo has vehemently defended, has been blamed for fueling the nursing home death toll. The Cuomo administration in early May also stopped counting the deaths of nursing home residents who died of COVID-19 in hospitals as nursing home deaths, raising more questions about the official death tally.
“They stopped counting individuals who left nursing homes, went to hospitals and died there. They don’t know when the peak was,” Tedisco said, explaining. “We don’t know how many left after the 25th [of March] to a hospital and died in a hospital.”
State Sen. Joe Griffo (R-Utica), another backer of the bill added, “The state can investigate bars and restaurants under this COVID-19 — how can we not investigate some of the nursing home conditions and the concerns that have been expressed by residents and families?”
Assemblyman Ron Kim (D-Queens), who lost an uncle in a New York nursing home to COVID-19, expressed his support for the bill as he ripped for Cuomo for penning an upcoming book on how the governor led New York through the coronavirus pandemic.
“In general,” Kim said, whenever Cuomo’s Health Commissioner Howard Zucker “was confronted with a tough question, he responded by saying, ‘We’re still in the middle of a pandemic, we’re still dealing with this,’ and yet the governor is writing a book and taking multiple victory laps around this issue.”
Kim, a co-sponsor of the bill, continued, “So there’s a clear disconnect, and I think they’re making excuses that we’re still in a challenging time when they don’t wanna’ answer questions and they don’t want to investigate.”
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