While the state legislature was conducting a hearing into nursing home deaths in New York State, Governor Cuomo held a conference call with reporters and rejected calls for an independent investigation, claiming such an inquiry would be political in nature.
“There is no such thing as a person who is trusted by all Democrats and Republicans,” Cuomo said. “That person doesn’t exist. The Department of Health, those are just numbers. They report on numbers. You can see what you want in the numbers, but the numbers are the numbers.”
More than 6,000 elderly residents lost their lives to COVID-19 in state-regulated nursing homes.
Critics say a March 25 directive from the State Department of Health ordering residents treated for COVID at hospitals be admitted back into those facilities helped spread the virus among the state’s most vulnerable residents.
The Cuomo Administration issued its own report saying that policy was not to blame, and instead singled out nursing home staff for spreading the virus. But experts say only an independent inquiry can get to the bottom of what happened.
“In terms of a call for an independent review, Congress has done a number of hearings, the legislature is doing hearings,” said Melissa DeRosa, the secretary to the governor. “Dr. Zucker participated for hours last week. If the legislature has any additional questions, they can submit them in writing and we will respond.”
Last week, Cuomo’s Health Commissioner Howard Zucker testified before the legislature. At a second hearing Monday, he declined to appear in person.
“I will join my colleagues in my disappointment that Dr. Zucker has not been recalled to complete his testimony, that he was woefully unprepared for last Monday,” said Republican State Senator Tom O’Mara. “Particularly in regards to the number of nursing home patients who were transferred to hospitals with COVID complications and ultimately died in hospitals.”
Monday marked the second of two hearings by the legislature into nursing home deaths.
The next step would be for the legislature to craft some kind of legislation that would help reduce the number of fatalities should New York experience a second wave.
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