Relatives who lost loved ones infected with COVID-19 in New York State nursing homes plan to stage a mock funeral on Sunday to mark the death of Governor Andrew Cuomo’s ‘leadership and integrity.’
The demonstration is aimed at ratcheting up public pressure on Cuomo, the largely popular New York governor whose controversial order requiring nursing homes to take back COVID-19 patients from hospitals is believed to have led to the deaths of thousands.
The bereaved families will hold the demonstration Sunday at noon outside the Cobble Hill Health Center in northwestern Brooklyn.
At the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, the nursing home in Cobble Hill is believed to have reported the highest number of deaths of any old-age facility in the state – 56.
Daniel Arbeeny, 57, is helping organize a mock funeral for Governor Andrew Cuomo’s ‘leadership and integrity’ on Sunday in front of a Brooklyn nursing home where his father was a patient before he died of COVID-19 earlier this year. Arbeeny is seen above in Cobble Hill, Brooklyn, holding up a photo of his late father, Norman
The Cobble Hill Health Center is reported to have been the hardest hit nursing home during the COVID-19 pandemic. At least 55 patients from the facility died of the virus, according to records. A patient is wheeled out of the Cobble Hill nursing home during the COVID-19 outbreak in April
Cuomo has denied that a controversial New York State directive requiring nursing homes to take back COVID-19 patients that were discharged from the hospital in March resulted in the deaths of thousands
‘Ultimately we want an apology and we don’t want it to be buried and hidden and forgotten,’ one of the organizers, Daniel Arbeeny, 57, told the New York Post.
‘Thousands upon thousands of people died — couldn’t have burials.’
Arbeeny’s 89-year-old father died of the virus after his son removed him from the Cobble Hill facility that was ravaged by COVID-19.
Norman Arbeeny had ‘a number of different illnesses,’ his son told the Post.
He was hospitalized in the spring and then transferred to the Cobble Hill Health Center for rehab.
After several days at the facility, he was sent home.
‘Ultimately we want an apology and we don’t want it to be buried and hidden and forgotten,’ Arbeeny said. He is seen alongside his daughter, Salina, who is holding a photo of Norman Arbeeny, 89
While at home, Norman took a coronavirus test and was found to be positive. He died 12 hours later.
But the official death certificate indicates that he died of heart disease, the Post reported, citing a local funeral home director.
Norman Arbeeny was thus not counted in the official statistics as a COVID-19 fatality.
Three other relatives of Arbeeny’s – all nursing home patients – also died of the virus.
Arbeeny thinks his father contracted the virus in the hospital.
‘My father was neglected at the hospital because they didn’t have enough staff,’ he said.
He was sent to the nursing home in Cobble Hill, which simply did not have the resources to treat him, he said.
Rich Azzopardi, a spokesperson for the governor, said: ‘We mourn with every family who lost someone during this pandemic and hope they look past the misinformation and outright lies that have been manufactured by right-wing agitators and their allies looking to cover for the federal government’s many, many failures.
‘The fact remains that every state across the nation is grappling with how to keep nursing home patients safe and tackle the root cause of infections – asymptomatic staffers who through no fault of their own bring in the virus.’
At the height of the pandemic in late March, more than 4,300 recovering coronavirus patients were sent to New York’s already vulnerable nursing homes.
The state directive, which said nursing homes could not refuse to accept patients from hospitals who had been diagnosed with COVID-19, was issued on March 25.
Cuomo’s book titled American Crisis: Leadership Lessons from the COVID-19 Pandemic was released on Tuesday. Fox News senior meteorologist Janice Dean (left), whose elderly in-laws died from the virus, on Tuesday criticized the Democratic governor over the timing of his book
It was ultimately scrapped amid widespread criticism that it was accelerating the nation’s deadliest outbreak as patients went into the homes and infected more residents ultimately leading to more than 5,800 nursing and adult care facility deaths in New York.
Cuomo, the main proponent of the policy who had previously called nursing homes ‘the optimum feeding ground for this virus,’ reversed the directive, which had been intended to help free up hospital beds for the sickest patients as cases surged.
But he has continued to defend it, saying he didn’t believe it contributed to the more than 6,500 deaths in New York – more than in any other state – and that homes should have spoken up if it was a problem.
Arbeeny said he rented a hearse with a casket that will contain 6,500 torn pages of Cuomo’s newly released book, American Crisis: Leadership Lessons from the COVID-19 Pandemic.
Each torn page will represent a nursing home patient who died of COVID-19.
Arbeeny said he was inspired to stage a mock funeral after he was on a Queens beach and saw a small plane flying a banner that read: ‘THE GOV KILLED NANA.’
‘I was at Riis Park with my girls. I almost hit the floor,’ he said.
‘I thought it was brilliant.’
‘That inspired us to say, “OK, we have to do this,” because it’s getting swept under the rug and the governor is not taking any responsibility for it. It’s time.
Arbeeny said he rented a hearse with a casket that will contain 6,500 torn pages of Cuomo’s newly released book, American Crisis: Leadership Lessons from the COVID-19 Pandemic
‘There are thousands and thousands of families.’
Earlier this week, Fox News senior meteorologist Janice Dean, whose elderly in-laws died from the virus, criticized Cuomo over the timing of his book.
‘I don’t know any governor in the middle of a pandemic that should release a book, especially this one,’ Dean told Fox & Friends.
‘I have to tell you it just makes our grief worse to see him promoting a book like this and dodging the questions when he’s being asked.’
A recent AP investigation found that the state’s death toll of nursing home patients, already among the highest in the nation, could be significantly more than reported.
Unlike every other state with major outbreaks, only New York explicitly says that it counts just residents who died on nursing home property and not those who were transported to hospitals and died there.
So far, Cuomo’s administration has declined to release the number. The governor has called criticism of nursing home deaths politically motivated.
In his book, Cuomo blamed Republicans and some media outlets for the controversy surrounding the issue of nursing homes.
‘The most painful aspect of the COVID crisis has been its devastating effect on our elderly in nursing homes,’ he wrote.
‘By early spring, Republicans needed an offense to distract from the narrative of their botched federal response – and they needed it badly.
‘So they decided to attack Democratic governors and blame them for nursing homes.
‘On April 25, conservative columnist Michael Goodwin published a piece in Rupert Murdoch’s New York Post aimed at New York with the headline, ‘State lacked common sense in nursing homes’ coronavirus approach’. It was an orchestrated strategy and a Fox News drumbeat.
‘It wasn’t just me. Phil Murphy in New Jersey, Gretchen Whitmer in Michigan, Gavin Newsom in California and Tom Wolf in Pennsylvania were all in the Republican crosshairs on nursing homes. As the states with the most deaths were Democratic states, the Trump forces saw us as an easy target.’