ROCHESTER, N.Y. — A large gathering Friday evening that began at the Monroe County Health Department brought two groups together in an effort to get the attention of local and state leaders.
Supporters of ROC for Educational Freedom and for the group Voices for Seniors carried signs, chanted, and reached out to the governor and to the Monroe County commissioner of public health for help.
Joanne Thomas fights for her father and stepfather, who are both in a nursing facility.
“Our loved ones are in isolation, they’re dying from isolation. We’re watching them slowly die. We’re losing them from isolation, not from COVID. Not from COVID," said Joanne Thomas of Greece.
Joanne’s group, Voices for Seniors, joins the movement calling for the reopening of schools.
Supporters say keeping children home from school is causing far more harm than the potential of catching COVID-19.
“They do not learn under these circumstances, they do not learn. They’re under stress. They’re feeling afraid to cough, afraid to touch their face, afraid to talk to their friends," said former teacher Elaine Brundage.
The group representing relatives in nursing homes is calling for an independent investigation into what has transpired within nursing homes. Relatives are demanding the formation of a task force to assist in the effort to reinstate visitation. And families are demanding that at least one family member be designated as an essential or compassionate care giver to represent their loved one.
“I totally get it. What we are seeing in the nursing homes is extremely difficult both for the residents as well as their families," said Monroe County Commissioner of Public Health Dr. Michael Mendoza.
Mendoza says it is the state that has authority over nursing homes.
“But we also know the high-risk nature of nursing homes and I think we have to balance that, and we have to balance the fact that not everybody in a nursing home has the same preferences about their goals of care and the types of risks that they're willing to entertain. I do hear from people on the other side of the spectrum, if you will, people who say, 'please do not allow visitors into the nursing homes' and I think those families have a right to their preferences being heard as well," said Mendoza.
“So many people are watching their loved ones die and we stand on streets, holding signs begging, begging Adam Bello, Michael Mendoza, Howard Zucker, Governor Cuomo to hear our cries and to save our loved ones,” Thomas stated to the crowd.
Those gathering said they simply want a seat at the table.