By MICHAEL GOOT
U.S. Rep. Elise Stefanik, R-Schuylerville, is in a war of words with Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s staff after she blamed the governor for the high number of nursing home deaths in the state.
Stefanik joined the other Republican New York members of the House of Representatives in calling for an investigation into the state’s adherence to safety and health regulations for nursing homes and long-term care facilities in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Stefanik said that health care workers have been placed at a significantly higher risk of contracting and spreading COVID-19.
On Friday, she tweeted: “Today I joined my (New York GOP) colleagues in the House to call for a federal investigation of Cuomo’s failed nursing home policies. NOW they admit they unethically changed the way they report nursing home deaths. An INEXCUSABLE tragedy for NY — NEED ANSWERS.”
Stefanik also appeared on Fox News on Friday to call for the probe into the state’s handling of the crisis.
The state has estimated that more than 5,000 residents of nursing homes and long-term care facilities have died from the coronavirus. A report from the conservative-leaning Daily Caller said that New York could be underreporting the deaths because the state in early May changed statistics about nursing home deaths to exclude people who died in a hospital, according to the paper.
Rich Azzopardi, the governor’s senior adviser, said the state’s accounting was consistent with guidance from the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
“We urge Ms. Stefanik to do something we understand is uncomfortable for her: Stop political pandering and fear mongering. In theory, she should be above this,” he told Fox News.
Stefanik’s campaign released a statement, urging the governor to examine the mistakes his administration made during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Stefanik was recently listed at No. 14 in a ranking of how often members of Congress work across party lines compiled by the Lugar Center, a nonprofit organization in Washington, D.C., with Georgetown University’s McCourt School of Public Policy.
Stefanik is a co-sponsor of legislation to protect seniors living with Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia from scams.
The bill would direct the Department of Justice to develop best practices for law enforcement, firefighters, emergency personnel and medical professionals about how to interact with people living with dementia who are experiencing a health crisis, may have been targeted by fraud or in need of general care, according to a news release.
“Our North Country seniors, especially those living with Alzheimer’s or other forms of dementia, are particularly vulnerable during a public health pandemic,” Stefanik said in a news release. “Unfortunately, bad actors have taken advantage of the COVID-19 crisis and are preying on seniors in the form of scams.”
Stefanik has co-sponsored legislation to provide emergency funding of $50 million for the Department of Health and Human Services to help expand use of telehealth services.
The funding would require HHS to share recommendations about how to improve access to telehealth services in nursing facilities during the pandemic and establishes a grant program to allow nursing facilities to facilitate “virtual visits” with loved ones during the pandemic.
“This legislation will be crucial in helping our seniors stay better connected to their health care providers and their families throughout this unprecedented time,” Stefanik said in a news release.