ALBANY, N.Y. (WTEN) — Republican lawmakers continue to seek answers on nursing home deaths due to COVID-19, specifically calling on action from the Governor.
Over two years ago, former Governor Andrew Cuomo issued a directive requiring nursing homes accept COVID positive patients from hospitals into their facilities. While not everyone was on board with this idea, including New York States Department of Health Advisory, the mandate proceeded. Soon after, COVID-19 infections and death counts began to rise in nursing homes.
A recent audit from the states Comptroller’s office found that the Department of Health understated the number of nursing home deaths by at least 4100.
Assembly member Kevin Byrne co-sponsored legislation that would create a bi-partisan commission to investigate the state’s COVID-19 response, specifically in nursing homes, but it did not pass this session. He says this is due to a lack of political will, “We have a new governor who has promised more transparency from the get-go, and I believe she has failed in that regard. She promised to listen to these seniors and get some answers and I believe she’s failed there as well.”
This past March, two years after Cuomo’s nursing home directive, Governor Hochul agreed to have an independent panel of experts review the matter, but that has yet to happen.
“Here we are, it’s July and still no panel of experts. And it’s important to remind people that it was her administration as Lieutenant Governor under Andrew Cuomo who put out a July report from the state’s Department of Health that actually white-washed what happened March 25th,” said Assembly member Byrne.
Additionally, he says politics should play no part in this and seeking justice for families who lost their loved ones should take top priority. Minority Leader Will Barclay agrees. In a statement he says:
“I have spoken to individuals across New York state who have experienced the worst of the pandemic response and they all want the same thing: closure. They are not going to forget what happened, and any political strategy centered on waiting out the public outrage is not going to work.”
But Senior Advisor to Governor Hochul, Bryan Lesswing says the response is soon underway, but it’s a matter that takes time:
“In March, Governor Hochul directed her team to explore a pandemic response review…. We are currently finalizing the scope of the Request for Proposal to achieve a meaningful review, a process that includes conferring with experts across various industries, and we expect the Request for Proposal to be posted publicly later this summer.”