New York Daily News
Gov OKs end to legal cover of care homes
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.