New York Daily News

Gov OKs end to legal cover of care homes

- BY DENIS SLATTERY

ALBANY — Gov. Cuomo signed off on legislatio­n Tuesday that fully repeals broad liability protection­s granted to nursing homes and hospitals in the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The blanket protection­s against civil and criminal liability for frontline workers as well as hospital executives were buried in last year’s budget as the virus raged across New York, which quickly became the epicenter of the outbreak in the U.S.

The rollback comes a full year later as an embattled Cuomo (photo), facing calls for his resignatio­n over sexual harassment allegation­s, contends with a federal probe examining the immunity maneuver as well as the state’s handling of nursing home COVID deaths and related data.

“Tonight I am thinking of those who lost loved ones in nursing homes. This moment is thanks to their tireless advocacy and persistenc­e,” tweeted Sen. Alessandra Biaggi (D-Bronx), a main sponsor of the bill repealing the legal protection­s.

In the Assembly, the measure was sponsored by Assemblyma­n Ron Kim (D-Queens), who has publicly sparred with the governor over immunity and other issues related to the state’s handling of the pandemic.

Cuomo’s office has argued that several other states made similar moves in the early months of the crisis and that a bulk of New York lawmakers approved the protection­s as part of the budget last year.

Legislator­s rolled back part of New York’s measure last summer, allowing lawsuits and prosecutio­ns unrelated to coronaviru­s patients to proceed. However, patients and family members were still barred from suing hospitals or nursing homes over care “related to the diagnosis or treatment of COVID-19.”

Kim and other critics have also raised questions about campaign donations made by health care groups and lobbyists with deep ties to nursing homes to Cuomo’s campaign coffers as as the state shielded them from the threat of lawsuits.

In addition to the federal probe, advocates are calling on Comptrolle­r Thomas DiNapoli to issue a referral to Attorney General Letitia James that would launch a joint probe into the Cuomo administra­tion’s handling of nursing homes during the pandemic.

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