After the first legislative hearing on how COVID-19 impacted nursing homes, lawmakers left with many of their questions still unanswered.
The State Health Commissioner Dr. Howard Zucker promised to forward some of this information, such as the exact number of nursing home resident deaths, at a later date, but this did not sit well with many lawmakers.
"Were you cognizant of the fact that nursing home deaths that occurred in hospitals would be an important topic of interest for us today," Senator Tom O'Mara asked the Health Commissioner during the hearing.
"Yes I was," Dr. Zucker replied.
"Yet you come with no information to give us any idea of how many deaths there were?" O'Mara questioned.
"Because as I said earlier I will not provide information that I am not sure is absolutely accurate," Dr. Zucker explained.
There is a second legislative hearing set on Monday August 10, looking again at the impact COVID-19 had on nursing homes. But right now, the Health Commissioner is not set to testify a second time.
This has prompted the Senate and Assembly Republican Leaders to call on Democrats to compel Dr. Zucker to testify under subpoena during Monday's upcoming hearing.
“The administration and the health commissioner knew for weeks this hearing was taking place," Assembly Minority Leader Will Barclay said. "It is totally unacceptable that Dr. Zucker fell so woefully short in providing complete information and fully presenting the facts regarding the state’s nursing home response."
Dr. Zucker testified for around two hours, but many lawmakers did not get a chance to ask any questions and some felt there should have been more time allotted.
“It is clear subpoena power is necessary in this tragic case," Senate Majority Leader Rob Ortt wrote. "We must compel Dr. Zucker to testify and thoroughly explain the orders and supporting documentation pertaining to his directives with respect to COVID-positive nursing home residents."