Assemblyman Jake Ashby (R,C,I-Castleton), who serves as a member of the Committees on Health and Aging, is renewing his call for a formal Assembly investigation into the state’s nursing home deaths during the COVID-19 pandemic under the Cuomo administration. Attorney General Letitia James’ recent report indicates serious discrepancies in the Department of Health’s (DOH) reported nursing home deaths with the department underreporting the data by up to 50 percent in some instances.
“New York families have endured so much loss in the past year, and what makes it more painful is that the state Department of Health is refusing to be open and honest about all the deaths in nursing homes,” said Ashby. “The Legislature cannot sit back anymore as the governor and his administration fail New Yorkers. We must have a formal bipartisan investigation to give grieving families honest answers.”
Ashby and fellow Minority colleagues on these committees are urging for the Majority chairs of each committee to use their subpoena powers to call DOH Commissioner Dr. Howard Zucker to testify under oath about the circumstances around the tragic number of nursing home deaths. The assemblyman believes that Zucker’s anticipated testimony at the Joint Budget Hearing on Heath is insufficient, as the commissioner will neither be under oath nor would be there to specifically talk about DOH funding, not nursing homes. Additionally, Ashby pressed that the Assembly should use its power to compel DOH to provide all communications between the DOH and other entities involved with the March 25, 2020 directive on releasing COVID-positive patients to nursing homes, which proved to have been deadly for so many.
Recently, Acting Supreme Court Justice Kimberly A. O’Connor ruled that the DOH must provide all data involving COVID-19 nursing home deaths sought through a FOIL request by the Empire Center. Ashby asserts that the Legislature must carefully comb through these details in the course of investigating this tragedy.