Fox News senior meteorologist Janice Dean, who recently lost her elderly in-laws to COVID-19, told the “Brian Kilmeade Show” on Monday that she was taken off the list to testify at a hearing geared toward understanding why and how the pandemic took root in New York nursing homes.
She said she believes New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo or his administration were behind the decision.
“I was supposed to be on the list,” Dean said on Monday.
“I actually filled out all the paperwork and sent the letter to all the lawmakers I believe July 28, a few days before the first hearing. They told me they couldn’t get me on that day, last Monday, but that I would be on today. I have several emails saying that that was happening.”
She said she had correspondence with New York Assemblyman Kevin Byrne and that he was the one who was emailing her “back and forth and was saying that he was talking to the chair [Assembly Health Committee Chair Richard Gottfried] and that the chair said absolutely she’ll get her day on August the 10, today.”
“I was supposed to hear something over the weekend, I never did and I was told that I was taken off the list,” Dean said.
Kilmeade then asked Dean “why” she was taken off the list.
“I can only guess at this point,” she responded. “I think it went higher than the chair. I think that it was Andrew Cuomo or his administration that decided that they didn’t want my voice to be heard and that’s really unfortunate.”
In a statement sent to Fox News, Rich Azzopardi, senior advisor to Gov. Cuomo, said that the legislature is “a separate branch of government and they run their hearings how they see fit."
Fox News spoke with Byrne, who provided some context as to what happened.
Byrne confirmed that he was corresponding with Dean and told Fox News on Monday that Dean “has every right to be angry and upset.”
When asked if he has any inclination as to what happened and why Dean was taken off the list, Byrne said that the committee chairs control the agenda of their hearings.
Byrne told Fox News that in an email sent to him on Aug. 2, “We were led to believe by the majority via email that she would be able to provide testimony” so he relayed that information to Dean.
However, Byrne said that on Friday he got an email from Gottfried where the Assembly Health Committee chair wrote, “I have been told that ‘The Senate is not comfortable including her on the witness list, so we will not be including her to testify.’”
Byrne, a Republican, said later on Friday he finally received the witness list, but Dean was not on it. Fox News reached out to Gottfried’s office for comment and was told Gottfried had no comment on the matter other than to recommend Fox News "contact the Senate Majority for comment."
When Fox News asked the Senate Majority why they were “not comfortable” including Dean on the witness list, Senate Majority Communications Director Mike Murphy said, "That assessment is not accurate."
In a statement sent to Fox News Murphy said, “There are so many families that suffered because of this awful pandemic.
“We had so many brave families that wanted to share their heartbreaking stories including the ones that testified today and at last week’s hearing,” he continued. “As was made clear if you couldn’t testify in person we will accept all written testimony to be part of the written record.”
Byrne told Fox News: “Every victim should have their story heard and it’s deeply troubling that she [Dean] wasn’t given the opportunity to provide testimony at today’s hearing."
He thanked Dean and said she has “been a notable, outspoken voice and advocate for the thousands of families who have lost loved ones from this virus especially in adult care facilities and nursing facilities.”
Byrne added, “My personal opinion is outside pressure likely from the governor’s administration after facing sharp criticism from the August 3 hearing did not want her [Dean] to testify.”
Dean told Kilmeade she had planned to watch Monday’s hearing, “but I have no desire to watch anymore because it just is another indication that they don’t want a real investigation. This is a complete sham.”
Dean made the demand the day after New York state lawmakers grilled the state’s top health official about the steep, though ultimately unknown, death toll at nursing homes in the state amid the pandemic.
Members of the Democratic-led legislature have been holding hearings geared at understanding why and how the pandemic took root in New York nursing homes after the state Department of Health reported nearly 6,600 residents, who had or likely had COVID-19, died at nursing homes and assisted living facilities.
The state hasn’t disclosed how many nursing home residents died at hospitals or how many have been infected with COVID-19.
During last Monday’s hearing State Health Commissioner Howard Zucker defended the administration’s response and declined to provide key data points sought by Democrats and Republicans, including a rough estimate of how many nursing home residents have died in hospitals because of the novel coronavirus. Zucker cited worry that those numbers could include double-counts of deaths.
“I will not provide information that I have not ensured is absolutely accurate,” Zucker said. “This is too big an issue and it’s too serious an issue.”
Dean told Fox News last week her husband’s father, who was in a nursing home and rehabilitation center, died the same day she and her husband found out he was sick.
She said that “we didn’t find out he had coronavirus until the death certificate.”
Dean went on to say that her husband’s mother “contracted coronavirus in her assisted living facility and was transported to the hospital and died in the hospital.” Her mother-in-law died on April 14, about two weeks after her father-in-law passed away from the novel coronavirus.
Dean joins many New Yorkers whose loved ones have died at nursing homes amid the pandemic. Last week they called for an independent investigation into whether nursing homes kept coronavirus patients separated, had enough employees, tracked workers who worked at multiple health care facilities and provided staffers with adequate protective gear.
The state’s health officials and attorney general are investigating whether nursing home operators are following federal and state directives, including alerting families of COVID-19 cases and deaths.
Cuomo has received scathing criticism for his early order requiring that nursing homes accept COVID-19 patients who had been released from hospitals, effectively placing them in the same facilities housing the demographic most vulnerable to the virus.
Cuomo has insisted that New York’s original nursing home policy was in line with a March 13 directive from the Trump administration’s Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) that went out to all states on how to control nursing homes.
New York, among other states, said at the time that nursing homes cannot refuse to take patients from hospitals solely because they have the coronavirus. After mounting criticism that the policy put the most vulnerable people at risk and contributed to a high number of fatalities, New York reversed course on May 10. Now hospitals can only send patients who have tested negative for COVID-19 to nursing homes.
Cuomo and his administration have been tight-lipped about the extent of deaths and infections at the state’s more than 600 nursing homes since March and Cuomo declined to admit any missteps.
During a press conference Monday, Cuomo said he “wouldn’t do an investigation” into the nursing home deaths during the coronavirus pandemic in the state of New York.
Fox News’ Brooke Singman and The Associated Press contributed to this report.