They are demanding an investigation into why coronavirus patients were released back into the nursing homes, CBS2's Jennifer McLogan reported Tuesday.
The family of Ana Martinez, who died of COVID-19 in a West Islip nursing home, said they never got to say goodbye.
"I miss her every day and she is the reason why I have courage to fight," one family member said.
The Harrison's grandmother and great aunt, both World War II Rosie the Riveters, died together of coronavirus in a Smithtown nursing home.
"We were not even notified that it was time to say goodbye," Jennifer Harrison said. "Just come get her. Come get her body.
The state has reported some 6,600 victims died from COVID-19 in nursing and adult homes. But, the family members contend it is a much higher number and blame Albany for forcing sick patients back into the facilities at the height of the pandemic.
"Gov. Cuomo, give us the number," State Sen. Phil Boyle said. "Give us the number."
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"Yesterday was the three-month anniversary of my father's death. He died holding the hand of his beloved wife. Our family is still waiting to have a funeral," Grace Colucci said.
The group is demanding a bipartisan quest for the truth behind all COVID-related nursing home deaths, calling many "preventable."
"We can fix this, but we need an independent investigation with subpoena power," said Tracey Alvino.
Dawn Best claims the governor even admitted nursing homes were vulnerable to the virus back in March.
"I think this is the biggest story of the pandemic," said Best.
CORONAVIRUS: NY Health Dept. | NY Call 1-(888)-364-3065 | NYC Health Dept. | NYC Call 311, Text COVID to 692692 | NJ COVID-19 Info Hub | NJ Call 1-(800)-222-1222 or 211, Text NJCOVID to 898211 | CT Health Dept. | CT Call 211 | Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
"If Gov. Cuomo's administration had spent one-hundredth the amount of time with investigators in the nursing homes making sure they were protecting our seniors, we would have a lot fewer deaths in New York state," Sen. Boyle said.
CBS2 reached out to the state Department of Health on Tuesday evening and received the following response:
"We've said from the start that protecting our most vulnerable populations, including nursing home residents, is our top priority. The Department of Health has conducted more than 1,300 COVID-19 focus inspections -- at least one onsite visit to every single nursing home and adult care facility in the state -- since March 1. As the Department's in-depth analysis of nursing home data found, COVID-19 fatalities in nursing homes were related to asymptomatic nursing home staff. We continue to support and protect those frontline nursing home workers with more than 14 million pieces of PPE."
As the CDC itself has said, this virus had likely already reached community spread in NYS by the time the feds banned travel from Europe.
As Dr. Zucker said previously, if you want to blame someone, blame the virus.
The Department's report was validated by independent reviewers as indicated here.
Actions we've taken to protect our most vulnerable population:
- Restricted nursing home visitors on March 13 (reinstituted visitation July 10 with restrictions consistent with CMS guidance)
- Ordered workers to be temperature checked every day
- Implemented specific isolation and quarantine procedures for exposed and ill staff and residents
- Completed an aggressive resident testing programs in all 613 nursing homes in New York State
- Directed the testing of nursing homes staff, which has led to 1.3 million tests since mid-May and the discovery of several thousand previously unidentified positive cases.
- Provided more than 14 million pieces of PPE
- Connected nursing homes to a staffing portal of more than 96,000 volunteers
- Helped facilitate transfers of residents to other homes as needed
- Conducted more than 1,300 on-site visits to nursing homes and adult care facilities to ensure infection control practices are in place
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