Byrne Prepares for Upcoming Independent Forum on Nursing Homes, Residential Healthcare Facilities & COVID-19

Assemblyman Kevin Byrne, (R,C,Ref-Mahopac), Assembly Minority Leader Will Barclay (R,C,I,Ref-Pulaski) and Senate Minority Leader Rob Ortt have announced the Senate and Assembly Minority Conferences will be hosting an independent virtual forum on nursing homes, residential health care facilities and deaths related to COVID-19 on Monday, Aug.17 at 10 a.m. Invited to the forum are all members of the Assembly and Senate Committees on Health, Aging and Investigations.

This forum comes after two separate hearings organized by the Majority conferences on the issue, which yielded a lack of information, as well as limitations placed on individuals with questions. The proceeding will be conducted virtually, with additional regional sessions to follow later in the year.

Byrne, the ranking minority member of the Assembly’s Committee on Health, said, “At the beginning of the Aug.10 legislative hearing, I expressed my displeasure and pointed out that there were fellow New Yorkers who asked to share their stories with us— only to be ignored. The legislative hearings held by the majority were important and helpful. We listened to lots of powerful testimony, but we’re not done yet. There are more people we need to listen to. At that time, I pledged that we were not done listening. This additional forum demonstrates that.”

“If we’ve learned anything from the first two nursing home hearings, it’s that the discussion is far from over. We have heard from a number of individuals and organizations who wanted to come forward and share their experiences, but simply were not given the opportunity to do so,” Leader Barclay said. “Holding legislative hearings was important, but there is no reason to limit the conversations to only two events on an issue that impacted so many thousands of lives. After the health commissioner’s evasive testimony, after legislators were denied a chance to ask questions, after witnesses were pulled off of invitation lists, our Conference promised that we were not done listening. Monday’s forum, and those that will follow, demonstrates our commitment to those individuals still waiting be heard.”

“Thousands of New Yorkers died in nursing homes and adult care facilities, and the state has yet to provide proper context to the full extent of the issue,” Leader Ortt said. “For more than three months, Senate Minority politicians called for hearings and an independent investigation to uncover the truth about what happened in our state’s nursing homes. Despite two prior hearings, there is clearly more work to be done. This is too critical of an issue to simply walk away and close the door. Even without full transparency and cooperation from the Cuomo administration, grieving families deserve to be heard.”

Janice Dean, whose mother-in-law and father-in-law both died from COVID-19 while living in elderly care facilities, will provide testimony during Monday’s hearing. Ms. Dean, a Fox News meteorologist who has been vocal about the state’s handling of COVID-19 in nursing homes, was originally informed she would appear at the Aug. 10 hearing. However, majority members later reversed that decision in the days leading up to the hearing and refused to allow Ms. Dean to provide testimony.

In a joint legislative hearing held on Aug. 3, Department of Health Commissioner Dr. Howard Zucker left after taking questions for less than two hours and refused to provide the full death toll of nursing home residents who were infected by COVID-19. He did not testify at the second hearing, held on Aug. 10.