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Brooklyn lawyers included on State Bar task force on COVID nursing home deaths

Task force will examine disproportionate no. of deaths in NY nursing homes

August 28, 2020 Rob Abruzzese
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The New York State Bar Association announced on Thursday that it is launching a task force to investigate why a disproportionate number of New Yorkers died in nursing homes and long-term care facilities early on during the COVID-19 pandemic compared to other states, and it’s relying on some Brooklyn attorneys.

There have been an estimated 32,499 deaths in New York State due to COVID-19, according to the New York Times. Florida, California and Texas combined account for an estimated 35,640 coronavirus-related deaths, despite having more than four times the amount of reported cases.

According to the Times, more than 6,600 of those New York deaths occurred in nursing homes or long-term care facilities.

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“Nursing homes and long-term care facilities were Ground Zero for COVID-19 in New York and many other states,” said NYSBA President Scott Karson. “We entrust these facilities to care for our loved ones and as lawyers, we must do our part to make sure something like this doesn’t happen again.”

The U.S. Department of Justice recently sent letters to Gov. Andrew Cuomo as well as the governors of New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Michigan seeking data on nursing home deaths in those states. On Wednesday, Justice Department officials said that the department’s civil rights division is evaluating potential investigations in those states.

The NYSBA’s task force on the issue will be co-chaired by Hermes Fernandez and Sandra Rivera, two attorneys from Albany. They plan to arrange meetings with health care providers, advocacy groups and others to seek out recommendations for the April 2021 NYSBA House of Delegates meeting.

“This task force will give our state an opportunity to examine what happened to individuals receiving care in nursing homes and from other long-term care providers,” Fernandez said. “We need to know what lessons can be learned and whether laws can be changed or need to be changed to achieve a better outcome.”

Four Brooklyn attorneys, Joanne Seminara, Betty Lugo, John Dalli and Thomas Small, also sit on the 19-person Task Force on Nursing Homes and Long-Term Care.

“We’re going to look at the challenges that confronted providers of services,” Rivera said. “The members of this task force will bring a variety of perspectives to the work, which will be helpful as we develop recommendations.”

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