‘Who Cares?’ Asks Cuomo, But COVID-19 Answers Needed

EDITORIAL

‘Who Cares?’ Asks Cuomo,

But COVID-19 Answers Needed

You should read this article in full. Google “cuomo hospital lobbyists,” or read excerpt below.

We’ve seen it happen here.

On Dec. 28, Cooperstown Center – the former Otsego Manor, now in private hands – advised its Family Council that two residents had died – not necessarily OF COVID, but WITH COVID.

Officially, one died of a bleeding hernia, the other of sepsis, at Bassett Hospital, NOT at the nursing home.

The Cuomo Administration’s Health Department took this kind of parsing a step further: Statewide, if a nursing home resident with COVID was transferred to a hospital and died there, he or she was counted as a hospital death, not a nursing-home death.

Attorney General Letitia James blew the whistle on this slack practice in a press conference last Thursday, Jan. 28, detailing an investigation that found nursing-home deaths from COVID may actually be 50 percent higher than the Cuomo Administration has been letting on.

Later that day, state Health Commissioner Howard Zucker released new numbers, raising the nursing-home tally by 3,800 to a new total of 12,743. That means about a third of our state’s 40,000 COVID deaths happened in places like Cooperstown Center.

So Cuomo and his health commissioner, Howard Zucker, knew. But so what?

Here’s what.

On March 25, as the pandemic was just getting underway in New York State, the governor directed nursing homes to accept residents suspected of having COVID.

“Further,” Kaiser Health News reported Aug. 24, when Cuomo was crowing about his state’s success at the Democratic National Convention, “nursing homes were prohibited from requiring that medically stable prospective residents be tested for the virus before they arrived.”

From March 25 to May 8, some 6,326 COVID-positive patients were admitted to nursing homes statewide, KHN said.

When Cuomo hammered the Trump Administration at the convention, a U.S. Department of Health and Human Services spokesman responded: “Does the #DemConvention know @GovCuomo forced nursing homes to take COVID-positive patients and planted the seeds of infection that killed thousands of grandmothers and grandfathers?”

The Cuomo Administration declined to respond.

On Sept. 18, Bill Hammond of the Empire Center in Albany wrote an opinion piece in the Wall Street Journal saying that Cuomo has “a remarkably tight political
alliance” with the Greater New York Hospital Association, which donated $1 million to his 2019 campaign.

“It turns out,” Hammond wrote, quoting an earlier Journal article, “that this ill-conceived policy was the brainchild of the non-profit hospital association, which pitched it to Governor Cuomo’s office shortly before it went into effect.

“In the name of easing a crisis for the association’s members, the Cuomo Administration contributed to a disaster for vulnerable nursing-home residents, who died by the thousands.”

Later, the piece continues, “the hospital association successfully lobbied for a last-minute budget provision to limit sharply the ability of coronavirus victims to file malpractice suits against hospitals, nursing homes and other providers.”

Hammond concludes, “In August, the Greater New York Hospital Association repaid Mr. Cuomo’s favors by featuring him in TV ads touting the state’s success in controlling the pandemic and assuring the worried public that hospitals are safe to use again.”

There’s much more in the Hammond piece worthy of reflection. Google it.

In a related Journal article, the Cuomo Administration declined to respond.

In his press conference Friday, Jan. 29, the governor, as you might expect, went on the offensive: “But who cares? Died in a hospital, died in a nursing home, they died.”

However, if Cuomo’s March 25 advisory resulted from the influence of a major donor – not his much-touted “data” – does that bother you? More to the point, if thousands of deaths resulted, is it criminal?

Unfortunately, New York State is dominated by Democrats, (as it would be unfortunate for us if it were dominated by Republicans. Save us from single-party governance).

In New York City, there are 4 million Democratic voters; 400,000 Republicans. In Albany, the Democrats control the Governor’s Office and the state Senate and Assembly by wide margins. Who’s going to investigate this?

Here’s who, maybe.

Two Assembly Democrats, Jim Skoufis, left, and Ron Kim, right, and a Republican
senator, Jim Tedisco, center, are looking for answers.

The state Senate has an Investigations & Government Operations Committee, chaired by a scrappy Democrat, of course, James Skoufis of Orange County, who has been saying all the right things.

It has subpoena powers; Skoufis should act.

Plus, a Temporary State Commission on COVID-19 has been proposed by a Republican, Jim Tedisco, from the Schenectady area. Our state senator, Peter Oberacker, R-Schenevus, is
co-sponsoring the legislation.

“I don’t think any of us should make this partisan,” said Oberacker. “Why wouldn’t we just want to have the investigation, shed light on it, and go from there? Otherwise, it just breeds questions and concerns.”

In the Assembly, a Democrat, Ron Kim, from Queens, is proposing companion legislation. Our assemblyman, John Salka, R-Brookfield, supports it.

The final verdict should best be delivered by the voters. It’s unclear if Cuomo is running again in 2022, although he says he will and is raising money. Letitia James, a Democrat, is a political animal: Maybe she’s setting herself up for a run for the top job.

Of course, power corrupts, and the Democrats have a lot of power in New York State. The best cleansing agent is the ballot box.

Republicans, of course, should field a strong contender for governor in 2022, someone with charisma and two-party reach – an Ed Cox, maybe. Or, as good, perhaps Democrats can field a candidate with integrity, someone like Michael Bloomberg, or maybe James.

Easier said than done, but without a healthy political balance, corruption is inevitable, and probably rife. And, as this case may prove when explored, corruption can be deadly.


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