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Senator Hints At Subpoenas If N.Y. Doesn't Release Key Data About Nursing Home Deaths

N.Y. Gov. Andrew Cuomo
Mike Groll
Office of N.Y. Gov. Andrew Cuomo

The State Senate Chair of the Committee on Investigations is threatening to subpoena Governor Andrew Cuomo’s health commissioner if he does not provide data on how many nursing home residents died in the hospital during the COVID-19 pandemic surge in New York last spring.

Senator James Skoufis said he and other lawmakers have been seeking the data for months now, only to be told by Health Commissioner Dr. Howard Zucker that they are still compiling the numbers. The Cuomo Administration issued a controversial order on March 25, 2020, that required nursing homes to allow hospitalized residents sick with COVID re-entry into the homes. Critics said that decision led to unnecessary deaths as the residents, still ill and contagious, spread the virus to others.

The health department issued a report in July that blamed nursing home workers for the spread of COVID in the homes, but has not yet released key numbers, including specific dates when the nursing home residents were first diagnosed with the virus, and how many residents died in hospitals.

Skoufis is asking Zucker to give him the numbers before a scheduled budget hearing on February 3.

“The decision to issue subpoenas is not a unilateral one,” said Skoufis, who said he is still working with the Democratic leadership in the Senate to obtain the go ahead to issue them. “But I am certainly at my end of the rope.”

Skoufis predicts a tense and confrontational hearing.

Karen has covered state government and politics for New York State Public Radio, a network of 10 New York and Connecticut stations, since 1990. She is also a regular contributor to the statewide public television program about New York State government, New York Now. She appears on the reporter’s roundtable segment, and interviews newsmakers.