Fox News senior meteorologist Janice Dean, who recently lost her elderly in-laws to COVID-19, finally got to testify before New York State lawmakers on nursing home deaths on Monday after she was denied the opportunity the week before.
Dean told “Fox & Friends” on Tuesday that New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo is not providing the exact numbers of those who died from COVID-19 in adult care facilities because “New York state does not count the numbers that we lost in hospitals from nursing homes.”
“We need those numbers to move forward and help change the laws,” Dean said. “We need an independent bipartisan investigation that involves subpoena power so we can get the health commissioner on the hot seat and ask questions and get truthful answers.”
She said New York State Sen. Thomas O'Mara, a Republican, had admitted to her "that they [the Senate Majority] were uncomfortable having [her] as a witness," so they took her off the list. Speaking on the “Brian Kilmeade Show” last week, Dean said she believed Cuomo or his administration were behind the decision.
In a statement sent to Fox News last week, Rich Azzopardi, senior adviser to Gov. Cuomo, said that the legislature is “a separate branch of government and they run their hearings how they see fit."
On Monday, New York Senate Republicans held a forum where Dean’s voice was heard.
“My family's story is not based on politics as some might have you believe,” Dean said during her testimony on Monday. “And apparently my appearance here today makes some people uncomfortable, but I don't think it's me they’re uncomfortable with, it's the cover-up and the truth that happened in New York nursing homes.”
Dean said her father-in-law, who was in a nursing home and rehabilitation center, died the same day she and her husband found out he was sick and that they didn’t know he had contracted the novel coronavirus until they saw his death certificate.
Dean also said that her husband’s mother contracted COVID-19 in her assisted living facility. She was transported to the hospital and died in the hospital. Dean’s 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. They have been calling 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.
New York state lawmakers grilled State Health Commissioner Howard Zucker earlier this month 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 the hearing, 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.
“We don't know the full numbers,” Dean said on Tuesday. “Cuomo and his health commissioner have been asked time and time again to give us the actual total deaths that happened, not only in nursing homes, but from seniors that were transported to hospitals and died in hospitals even though they got COVID-19 in their respective elder care facilities.”
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.
Dean said Cuomo “hasn't answered the question about his mandate [on] March 25th that went for 46 days straight to bring COVID-positive patients into nursing homes.”
“He’s dodged the question, he’s blamed everybody else except the person that signed the mandate, Gov. Andrew Cuomo,” she continued.
Cuomo’s office did not immediately respond to Fox News’ request for comment.
Dean said she will be traveling to Albany, N.Y. on Wednesday to meet with New York Sen. James Tedisco, a Republican, and Majority Democratic Assembly Member Ron Kim, who lost an uncle in a New York nursing home to COVID-19, to request a bipartisan investigation.
The group, which includes other legislators from both sides of the political aisle, will call for the passage of legislation for an independent, bipartisan state commission to “fully investigate the deaths of thousands of New Yorkers who died from COVID-19 in state-regulated nursing homes,” according to a news release.
Fox News’ Brooke Singman and The Associated Press contributed to this report.