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Zucker Declined Invite To Testify At Second Nursing Home Hearing On Pandemic Response

Mike Groll

New York State Health Commissioner Howard Zucker is unlikely to testify on Monday before the state Legislature’s second hearing on how nursing homes handled the pandemic.

Rachel May, chair of the Senate Aging Committee, said Zucker declined an invitation to testify.

“A lot of people are unhappy about that," May said. "But we are going to follow up in writing and try to get answers to some of the questions that he didn't answer last week.”

Lawmakers were disappointed with Zucker’s testimony at last week’s hearing. He refused to disclose the number of nursing home residents who died after being taken to a hospital.

Senate Minority Leader Robert Ortt and other Republican lawmakers want the Democrat-controlled Senate to subpoena Zucker for the data.

“We are owed answers, real answers, real testimony," Ortt said. "And it's just up to us if we're going to decide that we're going to get it. Are we going to ask nicely, are we going to make them provide it? Or are we just going to walk away again?"

"And I think that'll tell people a lot about what these hearings are," he continued. "Are they just theater? Are they just saying we did a hearing so we did a hearing? Or is this really about trying to get to the bottom of what happened and how we go forward to make sure it doesn't happen again?”

The state health department released a report in July that said coronavirus came into nursing homes through infected staff, not through hospital readmissions. Data shows 6,500 deaths at nursing homes statewide.

The virtual hearing will begin at 10 a.m. and is streamed on the state Senate website.

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