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Courtesy of Ulrich's office
Councilman Eric Ulrich is demanding a City Council investigation into Governor Cuomo's handling of nursing homes during the pandemic.

A Queens lawmaker is calling on the New York City Council to launch a probe of Governor Andrew Cuomo’s mishandling of the COVID-19 pandemic in nursing homes where thousands of senior residents perished.

Councilman Eric Ulrich says the governor failed New Yorkers early on in the crisis with his “senseless plan” to place patients back in nursing homes, even after they tested positive for COVID-19.

“Governor Cuomo continues to avoid tough questions about his decision to place patients back in nursing homes after they tested positive for the coronavirus,” Ulrich said. “Everyone knows these policies tragically resulted in thousands of deaths. We cannot turn a blind eye. Every family member and loved one deserves to know all the facts.”

The governor’s office has been defending Cuomo’s executive order in March that requires nursing homes to accept COVID-19-positive patients to free up hospital space. An AP report claims the state sent more than 4,500 patients recovering from coronavirus to nursing homes that were not properly prepared. At least 5,700 nursing home residents died from the virus across the state as a result, according to the report.

The Cuomo administration claims it was following federal guidelines.

“The policy that Department of Health put out was in line with the March 13 directive put out by, and that read, and I quote, ‘Nursing homes should admit any individuals from hospitals where COVID is present,’ not could, should,” Secretary to the Governor Melissa DeRosa said. “That is President Trump’s CMS and CDC. So I know that there’s been a lot of discussion on this topic. There are over a dozen states that did the exact same thing.”

During his daily briefing on Sunday, Cuomo further put the onus on the White House.

“New York followed the president’s agency’s guidance, so that de-politicizes it,” Cuomo said. “What New York did was follow what the Republican administration said to do.”

Ulrich, the only Republican of the Queens delegation to the City Council, said Cuomo’s decision was deadly to the “most vulnerable among us,” in a letter to Speaker Corey Johnson and Councilman Ritchie Torres, who chairs the Committee on Oversight and Investigation. Ulrich wrote that Cuomo’s directives allowed nursing home employees who tested positive for COVID-19 to continue working in the facilities, compounding the situation further. 

“Thus far, the governor has avoided answering tough questions about his decision,” Ulrich wrote. “If he tries to impede that investigation in any way, the City Council should utilize our subpoena power to compel testimony. We must leave no stone unturned. Every family member and loved one of a nursing home victim deserves to know the facts.”

Ulrich urged the City Council to launch the probe into the governor’s actions despite Cuomo’s popularity.

“I understand that an investigation like this might make some of our colleagues uncomfortable,” Ulrich wrote. “Perhaps they view Governor Cuomo as an ally to protect, or maybe they view him as someone to fear. Either way, we cannot allow partisan politics to prevent us from protecting the most vulnerable among us.”

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