Op-ed: I Lost My Dad After He Contracted Covid-19 In A N.Y. Nursing Home

Could his death have been prevented?

NY Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s administration has recently come under fire for allegedly downplaying the number of deaths in New York nursing homes during the Covid-19 pandemic. The scandal has only blown up further after the NYT revealed his top aides rewrote a report to conceal the number of deaths. 

Backtracking, in the spring of 2020, Cuomo made a policy sending Covid-19 patients back into nursing homes to free up beds in hospital ICUs — which were facing an influx of patients at the time. Many family members who had loved ones living in nursing homes, questioned the safety of such a measure. 

When the pandemic hit New York City, it was heartbreaking to hear ambulance sirens pulse through my 14th floor window every 20 minutes, and terrifying to see emergency hospital tents pop up outside my window in Central Park. Then, on March 14, 2020, I realized I had a 99.9 degree fever and had caught the virus. As a single working mom who had to take care of my then-five-year-old son, I was scared for my life. 

I battled COVID-19 on my own for two weeks straight. There were many times I didn’t think I was going to make it. Thankfully, with some rest and advice from healthcare professionals, I made it through. Sadly, my sweet dad did not. 

Before I get into the story of Jay Goldstein’s demise… 

The one thing that kept me sane during those weeks was NY Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s daily updates. If I listened to anything, it was him. He was the voice of reason in my mind. 

After my dad was admitted to RiverSpring Living at the Hebrew Home for the Aged in my hometown, Riverdale, New York, I visited him every weekend for three years. Full of Brooklyn-born-quick wit, he always gave me and my siblings a reason to smile. When Covid-19 hit, our family watched over him like hawks. My son and I went to visit my dad on March 8th. We found him watching television. I came from behind him and gave him a big hug. And that was that — the last time I ever saw him alive! 

Around March 14th, his facility sent out some daily updates on how they were handling the COVID-19 situation. Staff members were masked and gloved, and residents were being secluded in their rooms. 

Because my dad never charged his phone, to speak to him, I would call the nurse’s room on his floor and have one of the aides get him and have him call me back. My siblings and I spoke to our dad on Friday, April 3rd, and he was in great spirits. We were all laughing as much as we could under the circumstances. At that point, the facility had entered lockdown. No one was allowed in the building. We didn’t know when we might be able to see him again. 

On Sunday, April 5th, I got my dad on the phone. We chatted for a while, and I ended the call with an, “I love you.” After that call, I checked back every day through April 10th, but no one would call me back. Then, on Sunday, April 12th, my sister called me hysterically crying. Our dad was found unresponsive in his room. He was being rushed to the Emergency Room. 

Due to the influx of Covid-19 patients, he waited for a bed for a week, but luckily, we were able to transfer him to a different hospital location — where his longtime doctors were located. These doctors became our personal heroes. For 30 days he was intubated there in the ICU, we were able to FaceTime him. After a long stretch of high fevers, GI tract bleeding, and other awful infections, on day 29 the doctors told us there was nothing more medically that could be done for him. 

On May 12th, at about 9 a.m., the doctors removed my father from the ventilator. For the next 7.5 hours, we watched him take his final breaths before he passed away at 4:25 p.m. I immediately fell into complete hysterics, and the time I had spent with my father over the course of his life flashed before my eyes. I couldn’t believe he was gone. I still can’t believe that he’s gone as I write this today. 

On May 14th, my brother’s fiftieth birthday, we held my dad’s seven-person funeral. Although we had five days of Zoom shiva calls, it still feels like we don’t have closure. It feels like a bandaid has been covering the pain and PTSD I’ve experienced. I still haven’t hugged my sister since our dad passed.

It wasn’t until later, that we found out that Gov. Andrew Cuomo sent COVID-19 positive patients back into the nursing homes, and that later, his administration downplayed the number of people who died. That painful realization made all of us ask: Could my father’s tragic death have been prevented? 

My goal is to log each of the nursing home-related deaths in one big report. There are thousands of families like mine, and this would give me a sense of justice through all of this mess. Please visit www.covidnursinghomejustice.org and www.voicesforseniors.com for more information.