The death toll of the COVID-19 pandemic has been severe. As of the publication date, the CDC estimates that nearly 500,000 Americans have died of the virus. The toll, however, is not uniform across all demographics. The elderly, low-income individuals, racial minorities, and those with pre-existing conditions face a higher risk of death than the general population.
To address the uneven impact that the virus has had on the elderly, New York Assembly Member Ron Kim recently proposed a victims’ compensation fund based on the 9/11 VCF to aid families whose loved ones died “unjustly” in the pandemic. Our VCF lawyers explain more below.
Our VCF Lawyers Look at the Scope of the Problem in New York
Rumors have long swirled about residents of New York nursing homes dying at higher rates than were being reported — a suspicion bolstered by a lack of communication from the state and the facilities themselves. However, those rumors were not backed by hard evidence until recently.
On January 28th, New York State Attorney General Letitia James released a report finding that nursing home COVID-19 deaths were undercounted by as much as 50% and that patient neglect and other conduct may have jeopardized the health and safety of residents. A top aide to Governor Cuomo, Melissa DeRosa, later confirmed the discrepancy in the numbers, explaining that the administration underreported nursing home deaths because it was afraid that the actual death toll would be used against it.
The controversy over New York’s nursing home death toll stems from a March 25, 2020, order by Governor Cuomo that ordered nursing homes to readmit patients who had tested positive for COVID-19. While the order was consistent with federal guidelines at the time, critics say that it increased the risk of harm to residents. The governor has also come under fire for his persistent dismissal of criticism of his policies and his administration’s refusal to hand over critical evidence to the state Legislature when requested.
Assembly Member Kim’s Proposal
A frequent critic of Governor Cuomo’s handling of the COVID-19 pandemic, particularly as it relates to nursing homes, Assembly Member Kim recently announced that he is in preliminary discussions with other Assembly Members to establish a victims’ fund for those affected by COVID-19 deaths in nursing homes. While details are scant, Kim looked to the 9/11 Victim Compensation Fund specifically because it covers both survivors and the family members of those who died.
The fund would also allow claimants to receive compensation despite a state law exempting nursing homes and hospitals from medical malpractice suits. On a larger scale, Kim believes that the mere creation of a victims’ compensation fund of this nature would be an admission that the government and nursing homes were negligent in failing to protect the elderly.
Contact Our VCF Lawyers for More Information
If you’d like to learn more about the 9/11 VCF, please contact one of our VCF lawyers at Pitta & Baione by using our online contact form or calling us at 844-982-2667.