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Senator hints at subpoenas if state doesn't supply key nursing home death numbers

Karen DeWitt
WRVO News (file photo)
Barriers are set up outside the New York State Capitol building.

The State Senate Chair of the Committee on Investigations is threatening to subpoena Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s health commissioner, if he does not provide data on how many nursing home residents died in the hospital during the COVID-19 pandemic surge in New York last spring.

Sen. James Skoufis said he and other lawmakers have been seeking the data for months now, only to be told by Health Commissioner Dr. Howard Zucker that they are still compiling the numbers. The Cuomo administration issued a controversial order on March 25th 2020, which required nursing homes to allow hospitalized residents sick with Covid reentry into the homes. Critics say that decision led to unnecessary deaths as the residents still ill and contagious, spread the virus to others. 

The health department issued a report in July that blamed nursing home workers for the spread of Covid in the homes, but has not yet released key numbers, including specific dates when the nursing home residents were first diagnosed with the virus, and how many residents died in hospitals.

Skoufis is asking Zucker to give him the numbers before a scheduled budget hearing on February 3rd.

“The decision to issue subpoenas is not a unilateral one,” said Skoufis, who said he is still working with the Democratic leadership in the Senate to obtain the go ahead to issue them. “But I am certainly at my end of the rope.”

Skoufis predicts a tense and confrontational hearing.

Karen DeWitt is Capitol Bureau Chief for New York State Public Radio, a network of 10 public radio stations in New York State. She has covered state government and politics for the network since 1990.