The Assembly Minority criticized the testimony provided by state Health Commissioner Dr. Howard Zucker during todays joint legislative hearing on residential health care facilities and COVID-19. Commissioner Zucker, whose March 25 order required nursing homes to accept patients testing positive for COVID-19, offered limited testimony and ended his availability before all legislators were able to ask specific questions.
During abbreviated testimony, the health commissioner failed to provide the legislative committees with basic information, such as a complete number of COVID-19 deaths in nursing homes, also claimed he did not have the controversial March 25 DOH order with him at the hearing and provided no answer why the order was removed and has been missing from the DOH website for months.
Todays legislative hearing on the impact of COVID-19 in nursing homes was intended to get answers. Unfortunately, the state health commissioner was ill-prepared, intentionally evasive and left the room before lawmakers finished their questions, Assembly Minority Leader Will Barclay (R,C,I,Ref-Pulaski) said. This was little more than a regurgitation of power point slides weve seen before, and a Department of Health report developed to defend its own actions. Approximately 6,300 lives were lost in these facilities, and families deserved more than rushed testimony from the state officials responsible for the COVID response. I strongly urge Dr. Zucker to clear his calendar for Monday, August 10 and finish the job he barely started today.
Assemblyman Kevin Byrne (R,C,Ref-Mahopac), the Minoritys Ranking Member on the Assembly Health Committee, said, While I appreciate the willingness of Dr. Zucker to appear at todays legislative hearing on nursing homes, what he provided amounted to lip service. This administration has been presenting a narrative that its actions in our nursing homes and adult care facilities were appropriate and effective. If that is truly the case, the health commissioner should have answered every question and provided basic information, rather than cut short his testimony and leave the hearing after roughly two hours. This was a disservice to this forum and to New Yorkers seeking answers. In the end, the lack of answers from the DOH only reinforces the need for a truly independent investigation into the matter.
Todays hearing exposed the harsh reality that Commissioner Zucker and Gov. Cuomo were completely unprepared to handle, and subsequently explain, nursing home policy during the COVID-19 pandemic, said Assemblyman Brian Manktelow (R,C,I,Ref-Lyons), the Minoritys Ranking Member on the Committee on Oversight, Analysis & Investigation. What happened today was a disservice to the families of the thousands of individuals who tragically lost their lives while under New York states care. I am deeply saddened and disturbed by todays proceedings and will continue to press for the answers New Yorkers were robbed of today.
Commissioner Zuckers failure to see todays hearing through is wholly offensive to the victims of New Yorks deadly nursing home policies and in direct opposition to the very purpose of a public hearing, said Assemblyman Jake Ashby (R,C,I,Ref-Castleton), the Minoritys Ranking Member on the Committee on Aging. I am appalled at Mr. Zuckers lack of preparation and clear effort to suppress relevant data. Rest assured, this matter is far from settled. The people of New York must be furnished with the facts of this administrations missteps and I will continue to fight until the full story is told.
The Committees on Health, Aging and Oversight, Analysis & Investigation will hold another legislative hearing on the states nursing home response on Monday, August 10.