Readers Write: Assemblyman Ra responds to recent Island Now column

The Island Now

I’m writing in response to a recent piece published in Island Now opinion which attempts to reduce bipartisan calls for transparency and legislative oversight to political attacks on the governor.

There are some major discrepancies between the arguments detailed in the column and my interpretation of the facts. I think they’re worth litigating.

The author asserts that nursing homes could refuse to admit patients they could not properly isolate or care for. This is not true.

The infamous March 25 DOH directive stipulated that no resident “shall be denied re-admission or admission to the nursing home solely based on a confirmed or suspected diagnosis of COVID-19”.

The very next sentence expressly prohibited nursing home officials from testing patients for COVID-19 before admitting them.

The column fails to grapple with why there is an ongoing scandal.

Lawmakers didn’t issue the scathing report that the governor undercounted nursing home deaths by nearly 50 percent – the Democrat attorney general did.

Lawmakers didn’t wildly speculate that the administration stonewalled transparency efforts to stymie a federal investigation- the governor’s top staffer admitted as much on a Zoom call obtained by The New York Post. And NBC news reported that those very comments sparked the latest probe into the administration by the Department of Justice.

The author’s insistence that the governor used scientific expertise to drive decision-making was flatly contradicted by scientific experts who used to work for him in a recent New York Times investigation.

Nine top health officials, including the deputy commissioner for public health, the medical director of epidemiology and the director of communicable disease control all stepped down, as did the director of the Wadsworth laboratory. The report makes it pretty easy to see why:

“In Albany, tensions worsened in recent months as state health officials said they often found out about major changes in pandemic policy only after Mr. Cuomo announced them at news conferences — and then asked them to match their health guidance to the announcements.”

That isn’t science driving government. That’s politics driving science.

The author does not seem remotely skeptical of the timing of the governor’s newfound focus on nursing home reforms. Assuming their enthusiasm for these measures is in good faith, I’m sure the author would agree that for the Legislature to authorize a plan to prevent future tragedy, we’d have to know what actually happened this time.

That’s why these investigations aren’t about politics. They’re about the public interest.

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