Grieving family members who lost loved ones in New York nursing homes due to COVID-19 plan to stage a “funeral” for Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s “leadership and integrity.”
The relatives will stand outside of Brownstone Brooklyn’s coronavirus-ravaged Cobble Hill Health Center on Sunday at noon — and demand that Cuomo apologize for what they call his botched response to the pandemic, organizers said.
“Ultimately we want an apology and we don’t want it to be buried and hidden and forgotten. Thousands upon thousands of people died — couldn’t have burials,” Daniel Arbeeny, 57, whose father died in the nursing home, told The Post.
Arbeeny, the lead organizer, has rented a hearse with a casket that will contain 6,500 torn pages from Cuomo’s newly-released book “American Crisis: Leadership Lessons from the COVID-19 Pandemic” to represent those who died in nursing homes as a result of the contagion.
Organizers blame the deaths of their loved ones on a widely scrutinized March 25 mandate by Cuomo’s Health Department barring nursing homes from turning away coronavirus-positive patients.
Cuomo has repeatedly defended the controversial order, despite bipartisan calls for an independent probe into whether the mandate caused more than 6,500 confirmed or presumed COVID-19 deaths in nursing homes statewide.
In April, Arbeeny had four relatives die within a week from COVID-19, including his 89-year-old Korean War veteran father, Norman.
Norman, who had “a number of different illnesses,” Arbeeny said, was hospitalized and then transferred for rehab to Cobble Hill Health Center, which sent him home after several days. While at home, Norman took a coronavirus test, tested positive and died 12 hours later.
However, Norman’s official death certificate says he died of heart disease, according to a local funeral home director who requested anonymity.
The document was never changed to reflect the positive virus test, the mortician told The Post.
Arbeeny believes his dad caught the bug while in the hospital.
“My father was neglected at the hospital because they didn’t have enough staff,” he said.
The hospital dumped his dad on the nursing home, which was ill-equipped to handle his serious symptoms.
Arbeeny was inspired to stage the mock funeral after spotting the plane flying the banner, “THE GOV KILLED NANA,” over city beaches this summer.
“I was at Riis Park with my girls. I almost hit the floor,” said the dad of four. “I thought it was brilliant.”
“That inspired us to say, ‘OK, we have to do this,’ because it’s getting swept under the rug and the governor is not taking any responsibility for it. It’s time. There are thousands and thousands of families,” Arbeeny said.
Arbeeny also blasted Cuomo for his self-congratulatory new book.
“Now he wrote this book, he’s calling himself great. Taking credit for the good things and blaming everyone for everything else,” Arbeeny said, adding, “In our heart we want him to apologize. Period. End of discussion.”
An online flier for the Sunday gathering reads: “FUNERAL FOR GOVERNOR CUOMO’S LEADERSHIP & INTEGRITY” and “Nursing Home Families demand an apology, NOT a book!”
The Cobble Hill Health Center nursing home on Henry Street had at least 56 confirmed or presumed COVID-19-related deaths, records show.
Cuomo spokesman Rich Azzopardi dismissed the protest, echoing the governor’s prior statements blaming Republicans and even The Post for the scandal.
“We mourn with every family who lost someone during this pandemic and hope they look past the misinformation and outright lies that have been manufactured by right-wing agitators and their allies looking to cover for the federal government’s many, many failures,” Azzopardi said.
He added: “The fact remains that every state across the nation is grappling with how to keep nursing home patients safe and tackle the root cause of infections — asymptomatic staffers who through no fault of their own bring in the virus.”
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