A year later, no closure for family who lost parents to COVID in NY nursing home

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ALBANY, N.Y. (NEWS10) — Mary Ann Boniello lives in Delaware, but she drove to New York’s Capitol in Albany Thursday because she feels the state is responsible for the deaths of her parents in a Hudson Valley nursing home.

Boniello’s father, William Durr, died with COVID-19 on April 25, 2020, exactly one month after Governor Cuomo issued a directive to send COVID patients from hospitals back into nursing homes.

That’s exactly what happened to her father. He was returned back into the nursing home onto a designated COVID-19 floor after spending some time in the hospital.

Eight days after his death, William’s wife Hilda died with COVID-19.

William and Hilda Durr, Christmas 2018 in the nursing home

Boniello wonders why Governor Cuomo would let sick patients back into facilities full of vulnerable people.

The Governor and Health Commissioner Dr. Howard Zucker have defended this policy, saying it was the best option at the time to free up desperately needed hospital beds.

After hearing reports that the state omitted certain deaths from their nursing home data, Boniello wanted to know whether her parents were even counted at all.

“I need to know he’s aware that my parents died because of COVID,” Boniello told NEWS10.

She called Republican Senator Sue Serino, who has been an advocate for families grieving with the loss of their loved ones in nursing homes. Serino informed Boniello that there was no way to know for sure whether or not William and Hilda had been counted due to privacy rules.

William and Hilda Durr with their granddaughter and 2 great-granddaughters

According to Boniello, the nursing home staff did an excellent job watching over her parents in their final days, and keeping the family informed. However, she still doesn’t have closure, because of her questions on Governor Cuomo’s policies, and the fact that she couldn’t say a proper goodbye.

“That’s the killer. That you’re not there with them to hold their hands and say, ‘we’re here with you, it’s time to let go.’ And we can’t let go,” she said.

Boniello recalled the difficulties of having a funeral for both of her parents during a pandemic, unable to seek comfort from loved ones through hugs.

“To have two caskets next to each other, with name tags flying so we knew who was who,” Boniello said, “was just heartless.”

Boniello says she’s going to have a proper church service for her parents this summer, where more family members will be able to attend than did the funeral.  She wishes Governor Cuomo would attend, so he could see firsthand the pain her family is feeling.

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