Nursing Homes, Neglect, & Double Standards

Updated: Feb 24

Photo Creator: Mary Altaffer | Credit: AP

Recently Governor Andrew Cuomo has come under intense scrutiny for his administration’s decision to withhold information on COVID-19 related deaths in nursing homes from the Department of Justice and State lawmakers. While Governor Cuomo attributes the “pause” to creating a “void” that created room for critics to lie and spin the situation, the matter merits deeper reflection. New York Times Albany reporter Jesse McKinley (@jessemckinley) said on local radio that the troubling aspect of Governor Cuomo’s misrepresentation of the fatalities caused by his COVID-19 directives in nursing homes is that “people made decisions to send their loved ones into nursing homes thinking they were safe.” Mr. McKinley went on stating that people believed in those numbers and made decisions that put their loved ones in harms way.

As momentum grows to hold legislative hearings to exact accountability, everyone ought to enter this evolving moment with a few things front of mind. First, what standard will the governor and his administration be held to? I ask because in an interview about “Why the Justice Department fails to Prosecute Executives,” Pulitzer Prize winning Journalist Jesse Eisinger said:

“We talk about inequality in this country. We talk about things like mass incarceration where we disproportionately punish the poor and people of color. Well, the flipside is that we don’t punish the rich and powerful — and often white — men. One reason is a kind of elite affinity, class affinity. The prosecutors and these executives all come from the same milieu, and it’s just hard for them to see them as criminals.

As one Securities and Exchange Commission regulator put in an email that I uncovered in the book, “Well, these Goldman Sachs bankers are good people who have made one bad mistake.” This is what they think of executives. They don’t think of young black males on the streets dealing drugs as good people who have made one mistake.”

She feels that, “The Justice Department has lost the will and ability to prosecute top corporate executives.” Hon. Jed Rakoff of the U.S. Southern District for the Southern District of New York appears to agree. In his book, “Why the Innocent Plead Guilty and the Guilty Go Free,” he examines these fundamental flaws in our broken legal system and provides a pathway to reform. In reviewing his book, Ms. Eisinger said it “offers a full indictment of our broken justice system” on how it strips poor people of their “constitutional right to trial and due process,” while, as she puts it, “mollycoddling of the rich and powerful.” This brings us back to our question, what standard will Governor Andrew Cuomo and his administration be held to? This question is important to us because we really do not want to see Governor Cuomo denied due process like Mayor Richard Thomas was denied. Nor do we want to see him receive preferential treatment because he is an affluent white male. Whatever the course the Department of Justice or the New York State Legislature chooses, we hope it is fair and that the families impacted by Governor Cuomo’s decision to make nursing homes matriculate persons sick with COVID-19 receive the closure they need from blind justice.

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