Barclay, GOP leaders continue to push for probe into COVID-19 nursing home deaths

Assembly Minority Will Barclay speaks during an event this week with other Republican lawmakers, calling for greater accountability for the administration of Gov. Andrew Cuomo over the controversy regarding reported COVID-19 nursing home deaths.

ALBANY — GOP minority leaders in the state Assembly and Senate on Tuesday pushed again for a thorough investigation into what they say is Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s misrepresentation of nursing home COVID-19 deaths data, and updated their inquiries’ status.

Late last month, New York State Attorney General Letitia James released her report showing that the state Department of Health misrepresented nursing homes’ reported COVID data throughout the state. According to Assembly Minority Leader William Barclay, R-Pulaski, the Cuomo administration has yet to be held accountable .

“Through lawsuits, a legislative hearing, constant inquiries from families, media and lawmakers and an attorney general investigation, they refused to tell the full story,” Barclay said.

Since the report’s release, Barclay and other GOP leaders have been calling for a full investigation and more legislative hearings for answers.

“We want to accomplish two things with the hearings, we want to hold anyone responsible for these tragedies accountable, and we want to make sure this issue is not going to happen again,” Barclay said.

During a virtual press conference Tuesday afternoon, Barclay joined Senate Minority Leader Rob Ortt and Congressman Tom Reed to pressure the Cuomo administration. They went as far as calling on the Biden Administration and Department of Justice for assistance into the matter.

“Today, we demonstrated, in one clear voice, that there are leaders at the state and federal levels who will not relent until we’ve secured justice for the people of New York,” Reed said in a release.

Recently, both the Senate and Assembly Minority Conferences have requested information relevant to the issue.

Ortt said that the Senate Republican Conference requested that the state’s congressional delegation get information surrounding the federal Department of Justice’s inquiries into the nursing home data but have been left unanswered.

“Our colleagues in the Majority refuse to perform any meaningful oversight. We must turn to our federal officials for help,” Ortt said in a release.

Barclay said that the state Assembly Minority Conference has sent out petitions to various New York State standing committees seeking signatures to force legislative hearings with subpoena powers to get the information they desire. He said that the standing committees of the Aging, Government Oversight, Analysis and Investigation, and Health were the petitions recipients.

“The only way we think they will be forthcoming with this information is if we hold hearings and use our subpoena power that both the Senate and Assembly Majority have,” Barclay said. “There is no excuse as to why we are not holding hearings on this issue.”

On Feb. 3, GOP leaders from throughout the state convened and requested the communications surrounding the March 25 Executive Order to allow seniors with COVID-19 to have admission to nursing homes.

Barclay said that the James’ report indicated that the March 25 executive order was one of the leading causes for the increased fatalities that were under-reported.

“The Legislature should hold bipartisan hearings, using subpoena power, and the Department of Justice should expand its efforts to look into what happened here,” Barclay said in a release.

Currently, State Department of Health Commissioner Dr. Howard Zucker is scheduled to testify in front of the GOP during the budget hearings on Feb. 25. Barclay, along with other GOP leaders, said that while it is good that he is testifying, they don’t think that’s the appropriate time for the hearings because that time is meant for discussing the budget.

He urged the state to schedule another hearing with subpoena powers specifically for this issue to bring justice to the state’s families.

“We appreciate him testifying, but we want to get to the facts, and the facts are through the subpoena powers,” Barclay said, adding that GOP leaders are going to continue to push for these answers until they are given.

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