Currently, New York State’s nursing home COVID-19 death count is about 6,500 people, but that count does not include people who contracted the coronavirus in nursing homes, were transferred to a hospital, and later died in the hospital. State Department of Health Commissioner Howard Zucker was asked on Monday for a ballpark figure of that number.
“This is a serious issue of making sure when it comes to the deaths of individuals in nursing homes, and I am not prepared to give you a specific number,” he said. Zucker said the department was looking at the data and will provide it to lawmakers after he has an “opportunity to piece through” it.
“AARP believes, and I think many legislators believe, that’s crucial information, and that was not given out yesterday. And we were hoping that that information would be available,” said AARP New York State Legislative Representative Bill Ferris.
“I thought it was an evasive answer. He knew he has to testify. It wouldn’t take anyone really with special intelligence to try to figure out what kinds of questions you’re going to be asked at at this type of hearing,” said Assembly Minority Leader Will Barclay.
Zucker said the numbers were separate so that deaths wouldn’t be double-counted. But Ferris said he doesn’t believe it would be that complicated.
“I think the New York State Department of Health can figure out how not to double-count deaths… it’s a basic stat that they need to come up with,” Ferris said.
Ferris said he’d also hoped there would be more talk of a long-term plan in the future.
Republican leaders Will Barclay and Rob Ortt are pushing for the legislative committees to require Commissioner Zucker to testify under subpoena at the next hearing on Monday.
NEWS10 ABC reached out to the Department of Health to see if Commissioner Zucker will provide testimony at that hearing and are waiting to hear back.