Danielle Messina's father was 70 years old when he died last April 25 in a nursing home of COVID-19.
"My dad was a big teddy bear," she said on Friday in an interview. "A strong ox of a man, had his own business, very protective of his daughter. He was my pal. He was my best friend."
Gov. Andrew Cuomo once again Friday said New York should have moved faster to disclose information on nursing homes, saying not doing so created more pain for families of those who have died during the pandemic. But some family members say this was little solace.
Messina's dad was among the more than 15,000 nursing home and long-term care facilty residents who have died since the start of the pandemic 11 months ago in New York. Governor Cuomo is facing rising scrutiny for state policies that could have made the situation in the facilities worse, including a guidance that barred nursing homes from turning away COVID positive residents.
State health officials have downplayed the effect of the March 25 guidance, pointing to a federally backed guidance, the rising hospital caseload, and the legal requirement nursing homes be able to handle the influx of new residents.
Instead, the Cuomo administration has pointed to the spread of the virus by asymptomatic staff and visitors. Asymptomatic staff were able to continue working in nursing homes until April 29, when New York reversed that guidance.
"He got the virus definitely from a sick infected staff worker or a sick infected person who came in from the hospital," Messina said. "That's the only way."
For months, the Cuomo administration did not disclose more detailed data on nursing home deaths, including where residents have died during the pandemic. Over the last month, an attorney general's report found New York likely under-counted the number of residents who have died, and the governor's office acknowledged the administration waited first to respond to a Department of Justice inquiry before turning over more data to state lawmakers.
Cuomo on Friday said this led to a void filled by misinformation, creating more pain for families.
"We created the void by not producing enough public information quickly enough," he said. "I get that. But then it was exploited."
But Messina there needs to be more action, including a bipartisan investigation.
"At this point, we don't even want an apology," she said. "I don't want an apology."