While there have been over 70,000 COVID-19 deaths in New York State since the start of the pandemic, over 17,000 of those were people living in nursing homes and long-term care facilities.
Gov. Kathy Hochul says those deaths need to be investigated, but she has yet to issue a Request for Proposals from an independent auditor.
Her Republican opponent Lee Zeldin has a theory as to why.
“She is trying to delay the start of the investigation so that the conclusion of the investigation doesn’t come in before the November 8th election,” Zeldin said over a Zoom press conference with reporters. “She is trying to avoid any accountability that will hit very close to home.”
Nursing home deaths became a political football in the early days of the pandemic when former Gov. Andrew Cuomo ordered COVID-19 patients back into nursing homes after being treated at hospitals.
Many believe that helped spread the virus through the vulnerable elderly population, although Cuomo disputes that.
A report from the attorney general from Jan. 2021 found that Cuomo’s administration grossly under-counted nursing home deaths. At the same time, Cuomo was writing a book about his COVID-19 response.
“Gov. Hochul was the lieutenant governor. She was Cuomo’s lieutenant during all of this before she ascended to become governor. She never said anything with regards to the deadly nursing home order and coverup. She never said anything about the administration’s staff being used to write the book,” Zeldin said.
Hochul was asked about the status of the investigation last week.
“We have an RFP going out shortly,” Hochul said last week in Buffalo. “The challenge is that, when I started talking about this is March. I wanted to have a complete picture of what happened during the pandemic. The good, the bad, the ugly. This is not just a report to point fingers at what went wrong, I need to create the action plan going forward.”
Hochul says she is in no rush to initiate the probe.
“I don’t feel the pressure of a timeframe on me, because I am the one who decided they wanted to do this. I’m not obligated to do this by statute. I said I want his for future leaders to understand what we went to through,” Hochul said.
While ultimately it was sexual harassment allegations that led to Cuomo’s demise, it was that first report on nursing homes from the attorney general that first chipped his armor after gaining national attention with his COVID-19 briefings in the early days of the pandemic.