WEST ISLIP, NY — A Long Island politician recently joined together with families who lost loved ones in nursing homes to demand accountability for the high rate of coronavirus deaths. Last week Assemblyman Mike LiPetri held a press conference in front of the Our Lady of Consolation Nursing & Rehabilitation Center in West Islip to call for an independent investigation and accountability for the reported 5,000 nursing home deaths during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Earlier this year, Governor Andrew Cuomo and the New York State Department of Health issued a directive that all long-term care facilities in the region would be required to accept patients who were positive with the virus. Last month, he issued strict new guidelines which stated that if a nursing home cannot provide care for a person, and provide the appropriate level of care, for any reason they must transfer the person out of the facility.
In May, a group of Long Islanders also gathered in front of the same West Islip nursing home, demanding answers after some of their loved ones died of the new coronavirus. In addition, Assemblyman Andrew Garbarino, who represents the 7th district, a member of the Assembly Committee on Health, also called for the committee to discover what made New York nursing homes especially vulnerable to high COVID-19 death rates.
He and his colleague, Assemblyman Kevin Byrne, who represents the 94th district, who is the ranking Republican of the Assembly Health Committee, wrote Assemblyman Richard Gotfried, the committee chair calling for a hearing into the problems faced by nursing homes when managing the COVID-19 response.
Most recently,at the press conference LiPetri accused Cuomo and Dr. Howard Zucker, the state health commissioner, of "knowingly exposing" the senior citizens to the virus.
"COVID-19 brought great devastation to our region – taking thousands of lives along the way. While the entire situation is tragic, it is our job as leaders to protect those most vulnerable and for Governor Cuomo and Dr. Zucker to knowingly expose them to a deadly virus is simply inexcusable," he said in a statement. "He can dance around the issue and finger point all he wants but nothing will change the fact that this decision making unnecessarily led to the deaths of thousands. The victims and their families deserve answers, not a 'we’re sorry, we’ll do better next time.' These were real people and their stories deserve to be told."