ALBANY, N.Y. (NEWS10) — Bipartisan lawmakers want to learn from the mistakes that happened early on in the pandemic when it comes to nursing home COVID deaths.
“Fifteen thousand of our most vulnerable population lost their life,” said Republican Sen. Jim Tedisco. “There was a 50% undercount, the AG’s investigation said.”
Former Gov. Andrew Cuomo stands accused of not fully disclosing COVID death numbers in nursing homes. On March 25, 2020, a Cuomo-administration directive placed COVID-positive patients into nursing homes, and it wasn’t reversed for weeks.
Republican lawmakers said it’s time to unravel the truth, and they want the new New York State Health Commissioner, Mary Bassett, to publish a report about how and why officials made decisions that impacted the health, safety, and emotional wellbeing of those in nursing homes.
“In this case, we want the new Department of Health Commissioner to do her investigation. She’s new. She’s not compromised right now,” stated Tedisco. “We think a deep dive talking to some people who might have been in the room with the commissioner [Dr. Howard Zucker] and governor [Cuomo] would help give closure to our family members.”
Tedisco is also pushing for March 25 to become an annual day of remembrance for the thousands of nursing home residents who died from this pandemic. He says that an independent, bipartisan commission should also investigate.
Democratic Assemblyman Ron Kim agrees, and is backing legislation to that effect in the Assembly. He said Bassett seems to be playing coy about the issue. “She doesn’t seem to fully understand how and why those policies were wrong, and that is the whole reason why we are doing this,” Kim said. “To take incremental steps to provide justice, ultimately provide justice to families, and send the strongest message to the state and to the industry that we will not repeat these mistakes moving forward.”
On Monday, neither the Department of Health nor Gov. Kathy Hochul’s Office addressed the proposed legislation. Press Secretary Hazel Crompton-Hays released a statement saying in part: “ On her first day in office, Governor Hochul released additional COVID-19 data, and every day since she has worked to deliver accountability, restore trust in government, and protect vulnerable New Yorkers.”
The statement also says that Bassett is committed to transparency and improving equity in health care.