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Families deserve justice one year after Cuomo’s deadly nursing home order

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Last Sunday afternoon, I gathered with grieving family members who lost their loved ones to COVID-19 in nursing homes. It was part of what was called the “WE CARE” memorial. 

The memorial was organized as a response to what Gov. Cuomo said in January when Attorney General Letitia James’ independent report revealed that his administration deliberately undercounted the number of nursing-home residents who died from getting COVID in their long-term care facilities. 

“Who cares [if they] died in the hospital, died in a nursing home? They died.” 

Our governor has said some pretty heartless things over the last 10 months, but this one was exceptionally cruel. 

My friends Peter and Daniel Arbeeny decided they wanted to remember the New Yorkers who died by gathering their photos and posting them to a wall outside of the nursing home where their father Norman was being cared for before dying of COVID last April. 

I consider the Arbeenys my family now. We are bound together in grief and in our shared quest for answers about why our loved ones passed away, and what could have been done to prevent it. 

Today, March 25, marks the one-year anniversary of Cuomo’s reckless mandate that ordered over 9,000 COVID-positive patients into nursing homes. It was in effect for 46 days before his Health Department finally reversed it and then scrubbed it from their Web site. 

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People gathered in Brooklyn on March 21, 2021 for a memorial to loved ones who died of COVID-19 in New York nursing homes.
People gathered in Brooklyn on March 21, 2021 for a memorial to loved ones who died of COVID-19 in New York nursing homes.
Gabriella Bass

I believe it helped kill thousands of our family members during the pandemic and although I cannot prove it, I think it contributed to the deaths of my husband’s parents Michael “Mickey” and Dolores “Dee” Newman. 

I never set out to be an advocate on behalf of my in-laws. But when I kept seeing the governor on television last summer and fall being celebrated and never even being asked the nursing- home questions we so desperately wanted the answers to, I decided to tell our story. 

I did it to raise awareness about this New York tragedy. More than 15,000 seniors are dead and our governor tried to cover up the numbers and blamed everyone else for his mistake. Why wasn’t this one of the biggest headlines in history? 

And now, a year later, the governor and his handling of COVID nursing-home deaths is finally being investigated. There is a federal and FBI investigation being conducted in New York. They are circling around Cuomo and his top aides. 

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People have asked me if I feel some satisfaction in knowing that Cuomo might finally be convicted for his crimes, but I’m not sure if he will ever truly be held accountable. And we’ll never get my husband’s parents Mickey and Dee back. 

I do hope that what happened to my family never happens to someone else’s. We were never able to have wakes or funerals for them, to properly mourn their loss. They unknowingly risked their lives as the virus spread like wildfire through their homes where they lived and were being cared for. They died without family around them. We weren’t allowed in to visit them. Many nights, I lie awake praying that someone was holding their hand as they took their last breaths. 

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Another March 25 order should never be allowed again. And going forward we should do everything possible to protect our most vulnerable. 

Assemblyman Ron Kim speaking at the Brooklyn COVID-19 nursing home memorial on March 21, 2021.
Assemblyman Ron Kim speaking at the Brooklyn COVID-19 nursing home memorial on March 21, 2021.
Gabriella Bass

Meanwhile, the governor continues to blame and deny all wrongdoing. Despite calls for his resignation from both sides of the aisle, he says he’ll never walk away. 

There is a motion to start the impeachment process against him in Albany, but truthfully, I don’t have much faith in that process either. 

What I do believe is every victim should be able to tell their story. Sadly, a year later, 15,000 of them are no longer with us. So alongside the Arbeeny family and those who stand on the side of the angels, we will continue to try and keep their voices alive. 

Because you know who cares, Gov. Cuomo? 

We do. 

Janice Dean is senior meteorologist for Fox News Channel.

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