Republican lawmakers create petition for data on COVID-related nursing home resident deaths

Coronavirus

ALBANY, N.Y. (NEWS10) — It’s been more than one month since the New York State Legislature held hearings on the COVID-19 impact on nursing homes. Some lawmakers say they’re still waiting to hear from the Department of Health about key data when it comes to COVID-related deaths of nursing home residents.

“There are millions of New Yorkers who want answers, so we know what to do going forward. That hasn’t happened,” said NY Senate Minority Leader Rob Ortt.

Republican lawmakers say they’re still looking for the number of nursing home residents who contracted the coronavirus and then later died in hospitals. Those individuals were counted as hospital deaths rather than nursing home deaths.

The Department of Health was pressed on the subject by lawmakers on both sides of the aisle during a hearing in August. 

“How many nursing home residents died in hospitals?” Senator James Skoufis asked during the hearing. “I know you want that number, and I wish I could give you the number today, but I need to be sure it’s accurate,” NYS Department of Health Commissioner Howard Zucker responded. 

More than a month later, there’s been no release. 

“Everybody I know, every legislator I’ve talked to, would like to know the real number of those in New York State who died from COVID in a nursing home or got sick and lost their lives in a hospital, and a large majority of them would actually like to see an independent investigation to find out why,” Senator Jim Tedisco said.

Tedisco has now launched an online petition to support his bill that would allow for a bipartisan independent investigation with subpoena power to look into the deaths. The bill is sponsored in the Assembly by Democrat Ron Kim. 

“I think our people in our state deserve to have these answers, and I’m hoping that with this online petition we can, we can finally, finally get to the bottom of this,” said Assemblymember Mary Beth Walsh.

In a statement, Rich Azzopardi, Senior Advisor to Governor Andrew Cuomo said, “With this latest publicity stunt, Tedisco and company accidentally revealed that even they think the DOJ inquiry is a trumped up partisan farce. The truth may be inconvenient for their politics, but–  as has been the case with many other states — it was found that the main source of infection in nursing homes was, through no fault of their own, asymptomatic staffers.” 

NYS DOH Spokesperson Gary Homes said, “One thing we can agree with our legislative colleagues on is that accurate and reliable data should drive smart public health decisions.  So not only are we carefully reviewing all previous data, as the commissioner committed to, but we’re also requiring confirmatory and post mortem testing for anybody who may have had COVID-19 or flu symptoms, or exposure to someone who did, to ensure data integrity.” 

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