New York Congressman and gubernatorial candidate Lee Zeldin says incumbent Governor Kathy Hochul is stalling a review of the state’s COVID-19 policy decisions – including the deaths of thousands of nursing home residents – in order to gain political advantage. Hochul says outside consultants will examine every aspect of the pandemic, but she won’t rush the process.
On July 11, Hochul said a request for proposals will be going out soon. The Democrat who leads Zeldin in the polls and has millions of dollars more in her campaign war chest, said she is not feeling pressured to act more quickly.
Zeldin, a Republican who currently represents parts of Long Island, was joined by members of the group Voices for Our Seniors, made up of relatives of people who died in nursing homes early in the pandemic. He says Hochul is deliberately delaying the investigation until after the November 8 election for governor.
“Kathy Hochul is dragging her feet because of politics, and because there’s an election coming up on November 8,” Zeldin said. “In my opinion, that’s the reason why we are not seeing this advanced.”
Zeldin, a former U.S. Army officer, says after a military action, an official accounting is done to determine what lessons can be learned for use in the future. He says, if he becomes governor, he would immediately commence two investigations. One would be administrative and review policies, like how the shortage of personal protective equipment and other equipment was addressed. A second probe would focus on potential criminality involving a controversial order issued by former Governor Andrew Cuomo and his administration in the spring of 2020. It required hospitals to send COVID-19 positive patients back to nursing homes.
A report by state Attorney General Tish James found that Cuomo and his health commissioner undercounted nursing home deaths by half during that time period. An impeachment inquiry by the state legislature investigated accusations that Cuomo covered up the true number of nursing home deaths while he produced a memoir about his leadership during the pandemic. Cuomo has denied that he was involved in a cover-up.
Zeldin says despite the controversies, Hochul — who has been in office since last August when Cuomo resigned — has not even begun looking at what happened.
“The governor’s office has not yet even submitted a request for a proposal to the [state] comptroller’s office to start the bidding process to hire the independent investigators, never mind actually starting the investigation,” Zeldin said. “So this is a delay that is inexcusable.”
Zeldin says Hochul was lieutenant governor during the time when pandemic policies were made, and bears some responsibility for what was done. Hochul was not part of the Cuomo administration’s inner circle, and was not involved in day-to-day decision making.
Hochul said in May that she would soon appoint a blue-ribbon panel to look at the pandemic policies, including the nursing home deaths.
“I actually have outside consultants that will be working with us to examine every aspect of the pandemic — the good, the bad and the ugly,” Hochul said. “Because I have to be able to leave future governors what was learned.”
A spokesman for the governor, Bryan Lesswing, says the governor has also worked to pass laws strengthening protections for nursing home residents, and invested $20 billion in the state budget for improving the health care workforce over the next several years.
The governor said in May that she would not rush the …….