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

Jan 26, 2021

Credit defense.mil

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, a Democrat from Newburgh, 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 25, 2020 that required nursing homes to allow hospitalized residents sick with COVID re-entry 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 Feb. 3.

“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.