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Long Island News

New York Democrats Block Attempt To Subpoena Health Commissioner Over Nursing Home Deaths

Commissioner of Health for New York State Howard A. Zucker in the Jacob K. Javits Convention Center, Wednesday, Jan. 13, 2021, in New York.
Mary Altaffer
/
Associated Press
Commissioner of Health for New York State Howard A. Zucker in the Jacob K. Javits Convention Center, Wednesday, Jan. 13, in New York.

Republican lawmakers on a New York investigations committee tried to subpoena State Health Commissioner Dr. Howard Zucker on Monday. They wanted him to explain irregularities in how the state reports coronavirus-related deaths in nursing homes.

A state probe last week found that Zucker could have underreported these deaths by up to 50%.

Republican Senator Anthony Palumbo of eastern Long Island accused the health department of hiding the full impact of the state’s COVID-19 plan for nursing homes. Zucker released additional data hours after the probe.  It revealed that 3,000 more nursing home residents died in hospitals. 

“Why are we relying on what they are telling us? They have been obviously lying and concealing them for political gain, and the cover up is worse than the crime,” Palumbo said.

Democrats blocked the Republican push for the subpoena by ruling it out of order.

However, Top Democratic Senator James Skoufis threatened to subpoena Zucker last week before the probe was released. Skoufis said he is eager to get answers from Zucker at a budget hearing on February 25.

Republicans say the state hid these deaths in response to a state order last spring that required nursing homes readmit patients who were released from the hospital after COVID-19 treatment.