9/11-style commission needed to investigate COVID nursing home deaths – Saratogian

On September 11, 2001, nearly 3,000 Americans died in the shocking terrorist attack on our country.

Following this attack, the President and Congress established a bipartisan commission to prepare a full and comprehensive account of the circumstances surrounding the attack, including preparation for and immediate response to attacks.

The 9/11 Commission also provided recommendations to prevent future attacks.

Fast forward to 2020 and the start of the COVID-19 pandemic where more than 15,000 New Yorkers lost their lives to the coronavirus in state-regulated nursing homes.

Unfortunately, there has been little soul-searching on the part of the state to conduct an honest and thorough examination of what happened and how a tragedy like this can be prevented from happening again.

On March 25, 2020, former Governor Andrew Cuomo and his Commissioner of Health, Dr. Howard Zucker, issued a controversial executive order requiring the placement of COVID-positive patients in nursing homes. This decree was not canceled until May 10, 2020.

For months, my colleagues in the legislature and I have asked the governor, state health commissioner Dr. Howard Zucker and the state’s Department of Health (DOH) for the full number of coronavirus deaths among nursing home residents.

We were continually blocked by them.

In September 2020, I filed an amicus brief for the Empire Center for Public Policy’s lawsuit against the Cuomo administration for its refusal to release the records.

The DOH delayed Empire Center and my data request three times.

In January 2021, the Attorney General released a scathing report lifting the veil of secrecy from the Cuomo administration, finding that there was a 50% undercount of the total number of those who contracted the contagion at a nursing home. retired and died there and those who got there and died in a hospital.

After the Attorney General’s explosive report was released, Judge Kimberly O’Connor issued judgment on my lawsuit with the Empire Center, saying the Cuomo administration violated the Open Government Act and ordered that the full data of nursing homes be made public.

For nearly a year, the Cuomo administration has denied that the March 25 executive order had had any substantial impact on what the governor defined as a wildfire through dry grass. We now know that is not the case.

Although Cuomo and Zucker are gone, the Legislature still has a responsibility to fully examine the circumstances that led to the March 25 executive order and all related policies and procedures that may have contributed to the deaths of thousands of our citizens.

During her recent Senate confirmation hearing, I asked Governor Hochul’s new state health commissioner, Dr. Mary Bassett, about the lessons she learned from her predecessor’s decision to place the COVID-positive patients in nursing homes.

I was shocked and appalled to hear Dr. Bassett say that she didn’t even bother to read the one-page executive order of March 25 and that she “wasn’t going to try to sort out what had happened in retirement homes under the former commissioner. ”

That’s why I’m sponsoring a bill with Democratic Majority Assemblyman Ron Kim (S.2067/A.3162) for an independent, bipartisan 9/11-style state commission with executive power. subpoena to fully investigate deaths in nursing homes in order to bring closure to the families of loved ones who lost their lives and learn what happened so we can prepare for a future pandemic.

I am also introducing new legislation to require the DOH to conduct an internal investigation into what happened that led to the thousands of COVID deaths in our nursing homes and to develop and recommend a plan of action to prevent that this type of disaster does not happen again, and a bill to designate March 25 as an annual day of remembrance in New York State for residents of nursing homes and all those souls that we have tragically lost to cause of COVID.

Additionally, I am sponsoring a law (S.5752) to create a criminal penalty for violating New York’s Open Government and Freedom of Information Act, because no governor or senior official should ever again be able hiding public information such as death data. of 15,000 residents of retirement homes without incurring criminal sanctions.

We owe it to the memory of all those who lost their lives to the coronavirus in our nursing homes and to their families to fully investigate what happened in 2020 and prevent a terrible tragedy. as this does not happen again.

Sen. Jim Tedisco (R, C-Glenville) represents the state’s 49th Senate District which includes parts of Saratoga, Schenectady and Herkimer counties and all of Fulton and Hamilton counties

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