Republicans in the state Legislature on Monday assailed a report on nursing home deaths released by the state Department of Health and called for an investigation independent of Gov. Andrew Cuomo's administration.
The governor's office, in turn, knocked Republicans for "embarassing themselves" with politicizing the issue.
The report presented by Health Commissioner Howard Zucker in the morning pointed to nursing home staffers and visitors in early March unknowningly spreading coronavirus in nursing homes throughout the state. More than 6,000 residents have died of COVID-19 or are believed to have died because of the disease.
The report rebutted what has become a central criticism for Republicans and critics writ large of Cuomo's handling of the pandemic in nursing homes: A March 25 directive, now partially rescinded, that required hospitals to take in coronavirus positive patients.
"Governor Cuomo and his Department of Health Commissioner’s continual attempts to distort reality are an insult to every New Yorker who lost a mother, father, grandma, grandpa, or other loved one in a nursing home, long-term care, or assisted living facility," said Senate Minority Leader Robert Ortt.
"The fact is that coronavirus ravaged a nursing home in Kirkland, Washington in late February, and the devastation illustrated the danger the virus posed to our seniors. Instead of swiftly acting to protect our most vulnerable, Cuomo and his Health Commissioner did nothing."
Assembly Minority Leader Will Barclay reiterated the call for hearings at the state level.
"For months, members of the Assembly Minority Conference have called for hearings on the state’s response to the COVID outbreak in nursing homes. It’s time our colleagues in the Assembly and Senate majorities put a date on the calendar and get these under way," Barclay said. "If the DOH report is accurate, I’m sure they will appreciate an opportunity to discuss it with state lawmakers and independent investigators.”
Cuomo has pushed back against criticism of his handlig of nursing home deaths in New York, saying the controversy over the March 25 guidance for nursing home discharges has been politicized by Republicans and conservative media.
Rich Azzopardi, a senior advisor to the govenror, said the report issued by Zucker came with a peer review from hospital networks in New York.
“This thorough report was peer reviewed by experts at both Mount Sinai and Northwell health and while we’re all used to craven politicians embarrassing themselves by fighting facts and science, literally fighting time and space is new," Azzopardi said.
Republicans do not hold power in either chamber in Albany, meaning such a move would be up to majority Democrats. They are yet to rule it out.