Janice Dean's job is to focus on the weather. She's a meteorologist at Fox News. She's not a political commentator, nor is she someone who leaps at the chance to talk politics. 

But earlier this year as the coronavirus pandemic began to spread throughout nursing homes in New York, Dean's father-in-law died of COVID-19. Then her mother-in-law passed away from the virus as well. 

Both were nursing home residents in New York. 


What You Need To Know

  • Janice Dean lost both her father-in-law and then her mother-in-law to COVID-19 this year.

  • She has since became out spoken about nursing home safety and accountability in New York.

  • Dean is a prominent voice on the issue.

  • Gov. Cuomo has blamed the criticism on politically conservative media outlets.


"We weren't able to visit them at all," she said in an interview on Tuesday. "It's very difficult. I don't think we've mourned them properly. We weren't able to have a wake or a funeral."

They were able to bury them, thanks to a friend who runs a funeral home. But the loss, like for the thousands of people who have lost loved ones so suddenly this year, remains for her family. 

"It never gets easier," she said. "Not a day goes by that I don't think oh, we've got to call your mom and realize they're not with us." 

Dean has since become outspoken on the issue of nursing home safety -- and accountability -- during the pandemic.

She is one of the more prominent voices of family members who have lost loved ones in long-term care facilities during the pandemic. Her social media presence on Twitter is focused on the issue, including calls to get to the bottom of what happened. 

At least 6,300 nursing home residents have died during the coronavirus pandemic in New York. The death toll is likely higher as the state does not count residents who have died in hospitals during the pandemic. 

Gov. Andrew Cuomo, meanwhile, has been scrutinized for decisions made during the crisis, including the requirement that nursing homes cannot turn away COVID-positive patients discharged from hospitals. That policy has been partially reversed. 

But the state Department of Health has pointed to asymptomatic staff and visitors for unknowingly spreading the virus in March.

State lawmakers have held two hearings on long-term care facilities. Dean had asked to testify at the one this week, but was turned down. Senate Health Committee Chairman Gustavo Rivera blamed the long list of witnesses who wanted to provide personal testimony. 

"We apologize that we were not able to accomodate every single person who requested a spot," Rivera said at the hearing on Monday. "There's no conspiracy, folks, there were just too many requests."

Cuomo has blamed the criticism of his handling of nursing homes on Republicans stoked by media outlets popular with conservatives like The New York Post and Dean's employer Fox News.

"Look at what publications raise it and what networks raise it," he said in a conference call this week with reporters. "It's kind of incredible."

Dean told me her employer is beside the point. Her husband, a firefighter, had been hesitant about her speaking out on the issue.  

"People don't know what my political views are," she said. "I give the weather forecast and to find myself in this political storm is not comfortable for me. I get knots in my stomach everytime I talk about this. It wouldn't matter what channel I was on. I would still feel the responsibility for families that have no voice." 

Not having some sort of accountability has been troubling, she said. 

"The fact that we aren't really getting answers and the fact the governor continues to blame everyone and everything for the nursing home fatalities -- the fact that he isn't taking any for it is making our grief worse," Dean said.  

And what does Dean want? 

"I would like a non-partisan investigation, maybe even on the federal level as well," she said. "This didn't even just happen in New York state. Several other governors had the mandate to put coronavirus patients into nursing homes."