Revelations reveal nursing home death count understated

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NEWBURGH – Over 15,000 New Yorkers have died from the coronavirus while living in nursing homes or assisted living facilities, according to information Senator James Skoufis (D, Cornwall) secured from State Health Commissioner Dr. Howard Zucker.

The lawmaker secured the information under threat of subpoenaing the health commissioner.

Included in the Department of Health’s 16-page response to Skoufis was the full count of nursing home and assisted living residents who died from COVID-19 (15,049), data on nursing home inspections and violations during the pandemic, a detailed breakdown of PPE distribution, information on residential transfers between nursing homes and hospitals, and a review of testing protocols in nursing homes since last March. Furthermore, Skoufis received a commitment from the Department of Health that their July 2020 analysis of transmission in nursing homes would be updated in the coming days in light of the new, substantially higher number of deaths reported.

“While the Department of Health’s response was long overdue, it’s important that it was finally shared,” said Skoufis. “Legislators from both parties, families of nursing home residents, and the public understand the gravity of getting answers and acting upon them. While there will, no doubt, be additional questions, I intend to review the Administration’s response with my colleagues and continue developing a legislative response to this ongoing nursing home crisis.”

In August, Senator Skoufis led over 40 hours of hearings on the state’s response to COVID-19. With the testimony received alongside research conducted by his investigative team, Skoufis introduced a number of bills at the start of the 2021 session pertaining to nursing home reforms.

State Senator Skoufis

In a startling revelation in the New York Post, Governor Cuomo’s top aide purposely understated the death count.

That has infuriated State Senator Sue Serino (R, Hyde Park). “This administration has shown a callous disregard for these vulnerable residents and their families for months, but this stunning admission is a tragic new low. News of the audio recording erases any doubt that may have remained of a cover-up by the state. It could not be more clear that a thorough, independent investigation of the state’s handling of the COVID crisis in our nursing homes must be launched immediately.”

Assemblyman Colin Schmitt (R, New Windsor), also blasted the administration following the revelation.

“The Attorney General must immediately commence a criminal investigation and charges must be brought against anyone, including those at the highest level of state government, found to be involved in this conspiracy,” he said.

Cuomo’s former challenger, Dutchess County Executive Marc Molinaro has been critical of Cuomo’s handling of nursing homes during the pandemic.  In light of Post story, Molinaro said, “For over six months, day after day, in briefing after briefing, Governor Cuomo stood before New Yorkers and lied about his directive that contributed to the deaths of thousands of seniors. In the coming days, he will cynically try to convince us that it was for our own good – that it was someone else’s fault. This is another lie. What is true, is Andrew Cuomo has proved himself unworthy of our trust, and unfit for public office.”