Cuomo: NY ‘fully reported’ COVID deaths in nursing homes, hospitals
New York governor addresses alleged withholding of nursing home death toll data; Bryan Llenas reports on ‘The Story.’
After her mother’s death from COVID-19 complications in a New York nursing home, Vivian Zayas founded the advocacy group Voices for Seniors to “significantly improve the quality of life for our most vulnerable, elderly communities through grassroots initiatives and advocacy for protective legislation and reform.”
In an opinion piece in The New York Post, Vivian Zayas shared her rage about how her mother Ana Martinez, 78, was left to die: “So, let me get this straight! While my mom was alone, gasping for air and unable to cry out for her family’s assistance, Gov. Cuomo and his team were worried about then-President Donald Trump’s tweets? That is a tell-tale sign of an out of touch, power-hungry narcissist unworthy of his office. It’s hard to believe it’s been almost a year since we gave our mother a hug and kiss.”
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Aides to New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo revealed that his state’s laws have been too relaxed on nursing homes and that no facilities have lost their licenses despite widespread COVID-19 deaths.
“I think a lot of these nursing homes, frankly, retrospectively, even prior to COVID have been getting away with a lot for a lot of years,” Secretary to Gov. Cuomo Melissa DeRosa said, according to audio of last week’s conference call with Democratic lawmakers reviewed by The New York Post.
“I think that if there is any evidence that anyone was willful, or anyone was negligent in a way that goes beyond the normal course that costs people’s lives, I think that we all share the same goal, which is to hold them accountable,” DeRosa added.
On Monday, Cuomo blamed his team and political opponents, but declined to take personal responsibility in the alleged COVID-19 cover-up.
“This past year, there is a toxic political environment and everything is political,” Cuomo insisted during a virtual news conference in Albany. “There is political positions and there are facts.”
The Cuomo administration for months dramatically underreported the statewide number of COVID-19 deaths among long-term care residents. It is now nearly 15,000, up from the 8,500 previously disclosed.
The new toll amounts to about one-seventh of the roughly 90,000 people living in nursing homes as of 2019 in New York, which has among the most care-home residents in the nation.
Cuomo has pointed to a small but growing body of research suggesting unchecked community spread is the biggest factor in nursing home outbreaks, and he has said inadequate federal government help with travel restrictions, testing and protective gear left New York City and its suburbs particularly vulnerable.
The higher death tolls were only divulged hours after a report late last month from Democratic state Attorney General Letitia James examining the administration’s failure to include nursing home residents who died at hospitals. The updated numbers backed up the findings of an Associated Press investigation last year that concluded the state could have been understating deaths by thousands.
Nursing home residents’ advocates and relatives have questioned whether the virus’s spread in nursing homes was fueled by a March 25 state directive that barred the facilities from refusing people just because they had COVID-19. The directive was intended to free up space in rapidly filling hospitals.
Cuomo has said the facilities had a responsibility to accept only patients they could care for. State health inspectors have uncovered infection-control violations at dozens of nursing homes amid the pandemic and levied at least $1 million in fines.
Said Zayas: “Only after her death did we discover that our mother’s facility was previously cited 31 times for lacking infectious disease protocols. This particular facility had only reported 40 deaths and just recently the numbers were updated to 69.”
Her mother died last March after a few months of recovery in a nursing home.
“My mother, Ana Martinez, was receiving short-term therapy at Our Lady of Consolation in West Islip. She was transferred to the rehabilitation wing in mid-January, 2020 while recuperating from a wound and knee replacement surgery. Her discharge was almost two months overdue, and our mother was desperate to come home. … Finally, she’d be back in the comfort of her own home, surrounded by those who loved her most.”
Martinez was supposed to be come home but her illness took a turn for the worse.
Said Zayas: “After an agonizing wait for X-rays, our mother went into respiratory distress. They found she had a collapsed lung, and only then did they transfer her to the hospital. The hospital confirmed she was positive for the coronavirus, and although she put up a good fight, she died two days later.”
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After a year of grief, the daughter is taking action for her mother and other elderly patients facing similar danger.
Zayas wants accountability: “… We want an independent investigation with subpoena power to enact much needed and frankly overdue laws to protect the residents that are residing in the facilities today and we beg CMS [The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services] to come up with an immediate plan for visitation to prevent a new wave of deaths in our nation’s nursing homes.”
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