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New York Capital Brief: August 6, 2020

Governor Cuomo to Serve as National Association of Governors Chair

NY Governor Cuomo, who will become the longest-serving current governor next year, was unanimously voted to serve as the chair of the association representing the leaders of all 55 states and territories. He is the first New York governor to become chair of the NGA.

NY Lawmakers Hold First Hearing on COVID-19’s Impact on Residential Healthcare Facilities

On Monday, a joint panel of Senate and Assembly members held the first of two hearings on the COVID-19 impact on long term care, particularly nursing homes. Legislators repeatedly questioned the Commissioner regarding several policies related to COVID-related nursing home deaths.

Throughout the nearly three hours of questioning from the legislators, DOH Commissioner Dr. Howard Zucker vehemently defended the policies of the Department, including the March 25 order that stated nursing homes and adult care facilities could not turn away COVID-19 positive patients being discharged from hospitals, unless they were unable to meet their needs.

Testimonies were also delivered to the legislative panel by a number of advocates, including health care practitioners, the SEIU Local 1199 healthcare union, and long term care facility trade organizations. They addressed a range of other nursing home and assisted living issues, including staffing levels, visitation rules, the adequacy of Health Department quality and safety enforcement, and State funding for testing and PPE.

Primary Election Update

A federal judge in Manhattan has ordered election officials to count thousands of mail-in ballots that were declared invalid for not having a post-mark or arriving at offices shortly after the June 23 primary.

The ruling states that the New York State Board of Elections must “direct all local boards of elections to count all otherwise valid absentee ballots cast in the June 23 Primary which were (1) received by June 24, 2020, without regard to whether such ballots are postmarked by June 23, 2020 and (2) received by June 25, 2020, so long as such ballots are not postmarked later than June 23, 2020.”

NYC Health Commissioner Unexpectedly Resigns

New York City’s health commissioner, Dr. Oxiris Barbot, submitted her resignation on Tuesday morning, expressing her “deep disappointment” with the de Blasio administration’s handling of the COVID-19 crisis.

Barbot’s relationship with Mayor Bill de Blasio was reportedly tense, especially after the city Health Department was largely stripped of its contact tracing duties. The decision to allow the city’s hospital system to run contact tracing was controversial, with many public health experts, including former health commissioners Dr. Thomas Frieden and Dr. Mary Bassett, criticizing the move.

COVID & Travel Advisory Update

On June 25th, Governor Cuomo, along with CT Governor Lamont and NJ Governor Murphy, implemented a tri-state travel advisory which requires anyone who is returning from a “restricted state” to quarantine for 14 days. This week, Rhode Island was added to the list, while Delaware and Washington D.C. were removed.

On Wednesday, Mayor Bill de Blasio announced that the city would implement checkpoints at key entry points in the city, including bridges and tunnels. The New York City Sheriff’s Office will run the checkpoints, which will be moved around the city and change locations daily.