Thursday evening’s gathering at Manhattan’s Foley Square may have been billed as a memorial, but it was also clearly a demand for accountability from New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo over 15,000 COVID-related nursing home deaths during the last year.
Vivian Zayas’s mother died last summer in a nursing home, where she says the staff simply left her a box of her mother’s belongings.
She spoke at the vigil Thursday.
“We have bonded over the death of our parents and our loved ones,” she said. “We stand strong in our resolve to have asked for an investigation, and transparency, so not only that this doesn’t happen again, but that we learn the lessons that our seniors are valuable.”
The collective outrage stems from Cuomo’s decision made in the early weeks of the pandemic to allow COVID-positive patients to be released from hospitals and placed in nursing homes in an effort to free up hospital beds.
Critics say that decision could be largely responsible for the dramatic spike in nursing home deaths, many of which Cuomo’s team worked to actively conceal from the public out of fear of retribution from the Trump administration.
“This alone is a reason to resign, by the way,” said New York City Public Advocate Jumaane Williams. “So I join with my colleagues to ask the comptroller to request an investigation, simply on this.”
Tanya Dupree says her 87-year mother, Sally, wasn’t even living in a nursing home, but contracted — and ultimately died from — COVID-19 after being sent for temporary rehabilitation to a nursing care center in Brooklyn.
“When you saw me, you saw her,” she said. “Peanut butter and jelly.”
While she was there to remember her mother, she called for justice.
“You took so much from us,” she said. “To not be able to see your loved one for weeks, and then when you go to see them, they’re dying. When [my mother] passed, a part of me died. And I’m here to — I’m doing this for her.”