It was two years ago when then-Gov. Andrew Cuomo's administration ordered nursing homes to not turn away COVID-19-positive patients. The virus spread quickly, killing thousands of people.
Now, with Cuomo out of office and after two investigations into how his administration counted the deaths of nursing home and long-term care facility residents, family members say many questions remain unanswered.
"These 15,000 people were our mothers, fathers, grandparents, uncles," said Daniel Mathias, a Clifton Park resident whose mother died in May 2020. "They were part of the greatest generation."
Family members and a bipartisan group of state lawmakers on Wednesday at the Capitol called for a formal day of remembrance for March 25, when the state Department of Health's order for COVID-19 discharges went into effect.
At the same time, they want an independent investigation to probe what went wrong in the facilities that led to widespread deaths of people who early on were considered vulnerable to COVID-19.
"Where is their investigation? Did they die in vain? Does their passing matter?" Mathias said.
Two investigations by New York Attorney General Letitia James and Comptroller Tom DiNapoli found the Cuomo administration under-counted the number of nursing home residents who died in the early months of the pandemic. Democratic state Assemblywoman Yuh-Line Niou is among a bipartisan group of lawmakers calling for more action.
"Through this terrible pandemic, we had to learn the hard way how our government wasn't watching out for us," said Yuh-Line Niou.
Cuomo, now out of office, has decired the controversy surrounding nursing homes during his tenure as a political attack from Republicans. Janice Dean, a meteorologist with Fox News whose in-laws died of COVID-19, said the effort to get the truth isn't about politics.
"It shouldn't matter who we voted for. It shouldn't matter that my in-laws were registered Democrats," she said. "Does that make their lives more important because they might have voted for Gov. Cuomo? It shouldn't matter. It's about human beings."
Republican state Sen. Jim Tedisco on Wednesday sought unsuccessfully to gain passage of a bill to form the nursing home investigation.
"When we have this investigation and identify how we can do better," Mathias said, "we'll truly have a remembrance day for this victims."