Gov. Hochul needs to address what happened with the deaths from the nursing homes – New York Daily News

Dear Gov. Hochul:

It’s me again. Peter Arbeeny, small business owner and unwilling COVID activist. As you may recall, we met in your office in October 2021, along with some of my fellow COVID orphans, to ask for the truth about the New York State nursing home scandal.

The day we met, I handed you a copy of my father Norman Arbeeny’s death certificate. “When,” I asked, “will my father’s death finally count?” I want my father, along with the other unrecognized nursing home patients who suffered similar situations, to count.

Governor Kathy Hochul holds a COVID-19 briefing.

Gov. Cuomo mandated on March 25, 2020 that hospitals could discharge COVID positive patients to nursing homes, and effectively forced nursing homes to accept them even though they were ill-equipped to do so. Our father was in Cobble Hill Nursing Home for reasons unrelated to COVID, and got sick less than 24 hours after we brought him home. He passed away before his test came back positive. Because he died at home, his death was never included in the nursing home death toll, even though that was clearly where he contracted the virus.

To your credit, Gov. Hochul, you agreed that my father’s death should count. You even instructed your special counsel to assist our family in digging up the truth, and you also promised a meeting with your health commissioner. Great, I thought, as I wiped away tears. Now maybe Dad’s death will count. You were empathic, kind, and a good listener. Finally, a governor who cares. Who values truth.

But now, three years after my father’s death, governor, and none of your promises have been fulfilled. I never heard from the special counsel, nor did I meet with the commissioner. The truth is still hidden. When will we learn the real nursing home death toll, not just the cover-up numbers Gov. Cuomo fed to the press and scribbled into his book to make him look better, thus erasing people like Dad from the final tally?

In March 2022 state Comptroller Tom DiNapoli conducted an audit which exposed the Department of Health’s weakness in addressing the pandemic for nursing homes. “It is unacceptable that we still don’t know just how many nursing home residents died.” DiNapoli wrote more than a year ago. He recently announced plans to review how things have changed at DOH since his audit, which I applaud.

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You hired the Olson Group to review the state’s response to COVID, but that is not good enough. The comptroller’s audit was stonewalled; as DiNapoli wrote, “The DOH imposed impediments on the audit.” The Olson Group will likely be up against similar challenges. Gov. Hochul, will you make sure the DOH fully cooperates this time? Because if not, the truth will remain hidden, both from our family and from the public at large.

Meanwhile, Cuomo continues to distort history in order to serve himself. In a recent radio interview he stated that by the time the USNS Comfort was approved to take COVID patients, on April 6, 2020, it was no longer needed. In fact 7,000-plus COVID-positive patients were transferred from hospital to nursing homes between April 6 and May 10.

In that same interview, he also said New York was 11th in the country in terms of nursing home fatalities. Previously, in various press conferences and in his book, he claimed New York was 46th in the country. In truth, far more people died, and Cuomo knowingly lied.

My family never asked to spend the past three years being the voices for the voiceless. It’s a thankless, exhausting job. And yet, absent a proper investigation with subpoena power, what other choice do we have? Make a giant flag of Dad’s death certificate and wave it daily in Albany? My family will not rest — and my father will not rest in peace — until Dad’s death is counted, and we get the answers we, along with thousands of others, deserve.

Gov. Hochul, you have frequently claimed that your government will be the most transparent. We appreciate your commitment to transparency, but now it’s (beyond) time to put those words into action.

It’s been three years. We’re still waiting. And we should not be the only foot soldiers on the front lines of this battle. It’s time for our public representatives to take over and do their part. We and our fellow COVID orphans deserve a full and true accounting into the nursing home fiasco. Please step up and do your part so we can retire from this activism and advocacy and get back to running — and minding — our own business.

Arbeeny and his brother Daniel lost their father, Norman, who contracted COVID-19 while in a nursing home.

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