It has been a year since the pandemic began, but many families are still haunted by the final days of their loved ones who died of COVID-19 in nursing homes and assisted-living facilities.
On Sunday, a street in Brooklyn’s Cobble Hill neighborhood was filled with photos of seniors who passed away. The wall of remembrance put faces and names to the number of victims that is estimated to be in the thousands. They died away from their sons, daughters, grandchildren and other relatives, who could not visit them in their final moments due to the COVID-19 lock down.
“You don’t go there to die. You go there to live and my mother is a perfect example of that. She was more active in her assisted-living facility than she had been in three years,” said Donna Johnson, who lost her mother.
Peter and Daniel Arbeeny lost their father and other relatives. They organized the tribute.
“We do not blame the 15,000 on the nursing home staff who left their family to save our families,” said Daniel Arbeeny.
Many of the families blame Governor Andrew Cuomo. Last year, in an effort to free up hospital beds, Cuomo signed an executive order which sent thousands of recovering COVID-19 patients to nursing homes. The relatives say this was fatal mistake.
“It was like our our governor said even though he did this, throwing fire in a dry brush. We lost thousands of our loved ones. I lost four family members in one week,” said Peter Arbeeny.
Some speakers thanked Attorney General Letitia James for her investigation and critical report of the state’s handling of the senior centers.
Now, they want accountability for those decisions. Among them is Danielle Messina. Her father died last year, too.
“You put sick, infected people with a live virus into a population with your most vulnerable. When you had the USS Comfort ship, a Javits Center, you didn’t utilize any of those facilities, which caused the lives of all of our loved ones. We are here to honor them,” Messina said.
Though the wall of remembrance is temporary, organizers say they are working on a permanent tribute that will be up year round.