ALBANY – New York lawmakers have held hearings on the disproportionate health effects by the Covid-19 pandemic on minority communities.
They have held hearings on the pandemic’s impact on small businesses across the state.
Still not called yet, however, is a public airing of why so many people – more than 6,000 – died from Covid-19 or Covid-suspected illnesses in state-regulated nursing homes.
That despite requests from some lawmakers dating back to late April and early May that hearings be called and state and health industry officials explain what happened in the nursing homes.
Now there seems to be some activity on the hearings.
“We are finalizing dates for two hearings on nursing homes and Covid and will be announcing them shortly,’’ Mike Murphy, a spokesman for Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins said Friday afternoon.
In the Assembly, there is no word yet on when, or if, nursing home-specific hearings will be conducted.
Assembly Health Committee Chairman Richard Gottfried, a Manhattan Democrat, said last month that he first requested dates from Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie, a Bronx Democrat, back in early May.
On Thursday, Gottfried said there are no firm dates yet, and a Heastie spokesman Friday said a decision on hearings is to be determined.
“Many observers believe government policies and provider practices, both Covid-specific and those in place before it, contributed to poor Covid outcomes in nursing homes,’’ Gottfried said Thursday.
“I hope we can look at issues around staffing levels, adequacy of health and safety enforcement, access to medical supplies and the impact of regulations during the state of emergency. It’s also important to look at home care settings, particularly issues around worker safety and availability of services for disabled and frail elderly New Yorkers,’’ he said.
The Assembly hearings, assuming they will be held, will have a goal to “identify what steps are needed to improve outcomes for patients, families, caregivers and providers in long-term care settings both in the next potential pandemic and generally,’’ Gottfried said.
Sen. Gustavo Rivera, a Bronx Democrat who heads the Senate Health Committee, said the Senate is committed to holding hearings soon on how Covid-19 "has impacted nursing homes and the entire long-term care community in an effort to review what governmental policies and provider practices contributed to poor outcomes, what could be done differently and what policy changes need to be implemented to improve the experience of patients, families and providers."
The plans by the Democratic-controlled Senate to hold nursing home hearings – perhaps in early July – and the push by the Democratic chair of the Assembly Health Committee come after Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo, a Democrat, took to a radio station airwaves to declare that the nursing home virus issue has become about “pure politics.’’
“The Republicans in Congress, they think there’s a vulnerability,’’ he said of letters from congressional Republicans seeking information about the nursing home Covid-19 crisis – letters Cuomo said were sent just to Democratic governors.
“They don’t want to talk about what the federal government did on Covid. So they want to attack the Democrats for nursing home deaths. It’s just the same M.O., just distract, you know, create a shiny object to take attention off what they don’t want you to focus on,’’ Cuomo said Thursday on a public radio station in Albany.
The Cuomo administration ordered nursing homes in late March to admit patients who were recovering from coronavirus. Cuomo said that order, later rescinded, was based on federal health guidelines, a claim federal officials have disputed.