Janice Dean: Victims of COVID in nursing homes deserve justice. This is our next step
Justice for Nursing Home Victims Act will be announced by Assemblyman Ron Kim Wednesday
Exactly a year ago, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo had just won an Emmy Award and was only days away from releasing his book (which he wrote while thousands of New Yorkers were dying) "American Crisis: Leadership Lessons from the COVID-19 Pandemic."
Celebrities and news personalities could not stop gushing about the self-proclaimed "Luv Guv" in print and on television.
Entertainment Weekly called him "The hero that America never realized it needed until he was on our television screens every night."
He and his brother Chris spent many nights on CNN on "Cuomo Prime Time" joking about who was their mom’s favorite son, how big brother Andrew was "single and ready to mingle," and – the thing that still makes me furious to this day – joking about getting COVID tests while nursing homes were not allowed to use them to test incoming patients.
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Gov. Cuomo was being celebrated on all of the major liberal news channels and there were rumors he could even replace Joe Biden on the November ticket in 2020 as the Democratic nominee for president.
My, how things have changed in 365 days.
Gov. Cuomo resigned in August after multiple investigations into his reckless leadership, including admitting COVID positive patients into nursing homes and covering up the number of deaths.
There are reports that he enlisted his staff to help him write "American Crisis," a book that netted him a $5.1 million advance, and spent hours and taxpayer dollars using state resources to get COVID tests to close family and friends. His abuse of power also brought on accusations of sexual harassment from almost a dozen women.
And although we are grateful not to see Cuomo on our televisions, the radio or the endless puff pieces in print, he still hasn’t been punished for his deadly decisions, unethical mismanagement of staff or his mistreatment of women.
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For myself, and thousands of families, it’s personal. A resignation is not accountability for what happened to our loved ones in New York nursing homes last spring.
Andrew Cuomo’s replacement is Kathy Hochul, but New York’s new governor isn’t inspiring confidence either.
She has yet to reach out to any of the victims’ families or comment about the over 15,000 family members we lost after the pandemic began.
Her administration has never given us answers or reasons as to why it decided to admit infected patients into long-term-care facilities for 46 days without considering the other places they could’ve brought them like the USS Comfort or Manhattan’s Javits Center.
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And even though the New York State Health Commissioner Dr. Howard Zucker, the man who helped write the executive order that brought the sick into places that housed our most vulnerable, has handed in his resignation, he remains on the job until further notice.
We still deserve answers.
One of the only people who has never forgotten us or our fight is my friend New York State Assemblyman Ron Kim. Since the Hochul administration has done nothing to help us, even acknowledged us, Kim and several other leaders and advocacy groups are trying to get things done without her.
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On Wednesday, we are demanding reform and a compensation fund for victims. There need to be amendments to the state’s definition of "wrongful death" and "statute of limitations" when it comes to justice for those who were not prioritized at the beginning of the pandemic.
The "Justice for Nursing Home Victims Act" will be announced by Kim on Wednesday. It will hold the state and for-profit nursing home industries accountable for depriving our family of the protection and quality of care they deserve.
The act won’t bring back our loved ones but it will make sure that what we have all experienced never happens again to another family.
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The members of the Cuomo administration would like us to forget the thousands of loved ones we have lost. They want us to forget how Gov. Cuomo blamed everyone else except the administration that enforced the rules.
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The actions of Gov. Cuomo’s replacement also show she too would like us to move on and ignore their death sentence that was signed last spring.
But we haven’t. Not by a long shot. And right now our voices on behalf of those we lost have never been louder. And, hopefully, what we do on Wednesday will be a big step toward justice.
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