Saturday, March 6

Relatives of those killed by COVID-19 in nursing homes push for a federal investigation against Governor Cuomo


The Puerto Rican Ana Celia Martínez, 78, was admitted last March to a rehabilitation center in New York to receive continuous therapy after the operation on her left knee. Later weeks, his daughters Vivian and Alexa Rivera received their ashes, after being infected with COVID-19.

Today, ten months later, these sisters through their movement Voices for the Elderly they join the “cries” that demand a “transparent” federal investigation to reveal how New York state authorities handled this crisis and how many were really the internal elders in long-term care centers who lost their lives between March and August, the deadliest months of the pandemic.

“My mom had a better memory than me. I was very healthy. And in that rehabilitation center for the elderly they guaranteed us that she would be protected. And what the Health authorities did was put a match that ignited that virus, killing mothers and fathers who still had a lot to give, ”Vivian said excitedly, who this Wednesday demanded Governor Andrew Cuomo, along with other affected families in front of the headquarters of the Department of Justice (DOJ) in Lower Manhattan, which “Tell the truth”.

The exhortation of the Rivera sisters, to the state president, it is not an isolated event, nor is it a call for the opening of an independent investigation.

For several months Cuomo has been the target of strong denunciations and pressure regarding his responsibility in the decision of March 25, transferring patients with COVID-19 who were “medically stable” to nursing homes, when state hospitals were saturated with infected, for what at that time was a new virus.

“That this book does not close”

But the controversy surrounding the state health authorities was ignited with another fuel, after the New York Attorney General, Letitia James, showed two weeks ago an investigation that details that presumably the number of elderly people who died during the initial months of this crisis, have not been true: according to the calculations of this complaint it is estimated that at least one died 50% more seniors than the official number revealed.

“Our lawyers have collected testimonies from personnel inside the rehabilitation center where Mommy was, who assure that in effect, patients with COVID-19 were transferred from hospitals. Later over the months we found out that place located in Islip on Long Island, had several previous violations. This is very painfulVivian added.

After facing angry criticism, the governor in May amended that order, banning hospitals from transferring these patients to nursing homes unless they dumped a negative result for COVID-19. That decision came late for hundreds of New York families, such as the Rivera sisters, who after losing their mother began a crusade so that “this book does not close, until the truth is fully known ”.

“After weeks without being able to see Mommy, we received her remains in a box. Ironically on mothers day. We we will not rest until there are reforms and there is justice, so that the next generations are more protected, ”said Alexa Rivera.

Vivian and Alexa Rivera: We want you to tell New Yorkers the truth. (Photo: F. Martínez)

“My mommy voted for Cuomo”

Governor Cuomo in the midst of the hurricane that has caused these complaints, has recognized some “bad decisions” but has wielded on several fronts that it is “basically a political issue with the intention of harming him.”

“It is not a political issue! In my case I am a Democrat. My mom dead today, she voted for Cuomo. It’s about transparency. We are going to insist on our two questions: Were patients with coronavirus sent to nursing homes? Have they hidden the figures of the real dead? Yes or no? ”Rivera wondered.

Last week a comment from Melissa DeRosa, Secretary to the Governor, further expanded doubts about the way Cuomo has handled this issue, when she admitted that the State administration “hid information” to federal prosecutors so that the actual number of deceased “Will not be used against.”

Given this statement, hundreds of grieving families that are grouped in the organization Voices of the Elders believe that the only recourse to “achieve justice” is through a independent federal investigation.

To this request, the New York City Ombudsman, Jumanee Williams, who has demanded a comprehensive inquiry to DOJ, not only because of the growing complaints about the handling of the pandemic crisis in the elderly centers, but also because of the unfair distribution of vaccines in the communities most affected by COVID-19.

Aidé Pavel at the helm of the DOJ headquarters in Manhattan: My mother still had a lot to live for. (Photo: F. Martínez)

“We have been learning the truth”

The Puerto Rican Aidé Pavel He also held painfully on Wednesday the portrait of his mother Alba Pavel, who expired at the age of 72, on April 6, in a nursing home in Washington Heights, due to a series of complications after becoming infected with COVID-19.

“My two brothers and I decided to put her in the care in a specialized center, because she had the beginning of dementia. But she was fine, she didn’t have any disease. And it turns out that we live in disgrace that in that asylum they practically killed her“Aidé summarized.

The islander assures that she joined the Voces para el Ancianos movement, when she learned that supposedly they were hiding the actual number of people who had lost their lives to the pandemic in long-term care facilities for the elderly throughout New York.

“We have been learning the truth. And originally where my mother died, only 13 people had fallen from the virus. But everything indicates that it is not true. More than a hundred died “, he assured.

The Prosecutor’s report:

  • 6,400 deaths from COVID-19 in nursing homes and rehabilitation centers between March and August of last year according to official figures from the New York State Department of Health (DOH)
  • 50% more deaths of the official figure were registered in these centers, according to a 72-page report presented by New York Attorney General Letitia James.
  • 1,885 older people they reportedly died in hospitals and were not included in the official DOH count of nursing home deaths.

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