New York Gov. Andrew CuomoAndrew CuomoEMILY's List announces early endorsement of Hochul Hochul jumps out to early lead in NY governor's primary: poll De Blasio privately says he plans to run for New York governor: report MORE (D) late Tuesday signed into law legislation that lifts the liability protections that have helped health facilities avoid lawsuits during the pandemic.
The legislation repeals the Treatment Protection Act, which prevented health care facilities like nursing homes and hospitals, as well as their administrators and executives, from being held accountable for harm and damages incurred at facilities.
The legislation comes as Cuomo and his administration are under fire after admitting at least some responsibility for withholding data on coronavirus-related deaths in the state’s nursing homes.
New York Attorney General Letitia James (D) in January issued a report accusing Cuomo’s administration of undercounting coronavirus-related deaths at nursing homes by as much as 50 percent.
The state attorney general said that Cuomo's administration had not counted nursing home residents who had died of COVID-19 after being transferred to hospitals for treatment. James's report found that the total nursing home death toll was closer to 13,000 as opposed to the 8,600 reported by the state.
The governor's office did not immediately return a request for comment.
New York Sen. Alessandra Biaggi (D), the bill's sponsor, celebrated the signing in a Twitter post on Tuesday.
"Tonight I am thinking of those who lost loved ones in nursing homes. This moment is thanks to their tireless advocacy and persistence," she wrote.
The legislation passed the state Senate on March 24. In a statement at the time, Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins (D) said the bill would prioritize the wellbeing of nursing home residents.
“The tragic situation in nursing homes during the COVID-19 pandemic has exposed a dire need to guarantee greater transparency and accountability,” she said.
The Greater New York Hospital Association opposed the repeal of the liability protections. In a statement to The Hill, a spokesman said they continue to be needed because the pandemic is not over.
"In passing these fair and balanced liability protections last year, Albany recognized the incredible sacrifices that health care workers, hospitals, and other facilities made in caring for COVID-19 patients under extraordinarily challenging circumstances," Brian Conway, the GNYHA spokesman, said. "This pandemic is not over. We remain concerned about potential future surges as the coronavirus reinvents itself through variants and mutations, even as vaccinations increase.”