Updated: September 23, 2020 07:56 PM
Created: September 23, 2020 05:37 PM
Another push for answers regarding nursing home related COVID-19 deaths on Wednesday. Senator Jim Tedisco and Senator Sue Serino are calling on Senate Committee Chairs to subpoena New York State Department of Health Commissioner Dr. Howard Zucker for additional data and numbers.
Lawmakers believe the number of reported nursing home deaths from COVID-19 could be off by thousands. The reported number right now stands at 6,477. Senator Tedisco believes that number is probably more like 10,000 or 11,000.
People who contracted COVID-19 in a nursing home but died after they were transported to a hospital are not counted as a nursing home death. Some lawmakers want that changed.
On August 20, the Chairs for the Senate Health Committee, Senate Investigations Committee and Senate Aging Committee sent Zucker a list of 17 questions they wanted to be answered after a public hearing was held on the issue. The letter gave DOH three weeks to respond, but more than a month later those questions remain unanswered.
"History shows the cover up is always worse than what you're trying to cover up, and we ask the governor and the commissioner and today, we ask our colleagues. We haven't gotten the numbers any other way. The last resort is the use of power as elected officials. We gave the governor all the power. We have to take some of that power back right now," said Senator Tedisco.
NewsChannel 13 reached out to DOH and Gov. Cuomo's office for comment:
"One thing we can agree with our legislative colleagues on is that accurate and reliable data should drive smart public health decisions. So not only are we carefully reviewing all previous data, as the commissioner committed to, but we're also requiring confirmatory and postmortem testing for anybody who may have had COVID-19 or flu symptoms, or exposure to someone who did, to ensure data integrity." -Gary Holmes, Department of Health Spokesperson
"As we said after Sen. Tedisco's publicity stunt last week, the truth may be inconvenient for their politics, but - as has been the case with many other states - it was found that the main source of infection in nursing homes was, through no fault of their own, asymptomatic staffers." -Rich Azzopardi, Senior Advisor to Gov. Cuomo.
Tedisco says the move is not a political one as members of both Democrats and Republicans are calling for more transparency. Tedisco says the information is vital to ensuring nursing home residents and staff will be better protected should COVID-19 cases spike again.
"The governor always says we need to follow the science. The governor knows if we don't have the data and the metrics we cannot follow the science," said Tedisco.
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