New Yorkers mourn loved ones who died from COVID-19 in nursing homes

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New Yorkers gathered in Brooklyn on Sunday to mourn the more than 15,000 nursing-home and assisted-living residents believed to have died of the coronavirus — and rage over Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s handling of the crisis.

On a bright spring day, the group assembled on Henry Street in Cobble Hill, some holding pictures of their loved ones, others signs with messages including, “We will never forget.”

“‘It might sound cruel, but I have to give it to you straight: ‘Your father is a dying man,’ ” Tracey Alvino said her dad’s doctor told her at the height of the pandemic. ” ‘He’s not gonna come back from this. … He’s going to die.’

“I never knew the name of that doctor. I don’t even know his face,” Alvino told the crowd of dozens. “Because of COVID-19, I had to make the decision to let my father go over the phone, with a doctor I didn’t know.”

Alvino’s father, Daniel, was among the state’s nursing-home residents to die of the coronavirus — and he was remembered Sunday on a local “memorial wall” lined with photos of the deceased.

“The decision still haunts me to this day, but it had to be made,” Alvino said of deciding to let “my father go.

“At that point, he had been on the ventilator for COVID-19 pneumonia for nine days, and every day was more grim than the one that preceded it.”

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People holding signs at the memorial in Brooklyn on March 21, 2021.

Gabriella Bass for New York Post

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The cremated remains of a person who passed away of COVID-19 at the memorial.

Gabriella Bass for New York Post

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Alvino said her father signed a do-not-resuscitate order before agreeing to be intubated and that she found herself forced to make a judgment call she felt was in accordance with his wishes.

“‘You made the right decision for your father, Miss Alvino,’ the doctor said,” according to Alvino. ” ‘I want to assure you that he will not pass alone.’”

But Alvino said she still had questions.

“‘Will he be in pain? Does he know he’s dying?’ I stammered through sobs,” Alvino said Sunday, her voice breaking again.

Daniel Alvino died April 14 at the age of 76 after catching COVID-19 while recuperating from neck surgery in a nursing home.

Alvino spoke both to pay tribute to her father — and to demand accountability for his death from the governor.

The event was held nearly a year to the day after Cuomo’s Department of Health issued a March 25, 2020, mandate forbidding nursing homes from turning away residents on the sole basis of a coronavirus diagnosis — even as the governor publicly likened the coronavirus’ potential effect on nursing homes to a wildfire in dry grass.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo speaking at a vaccination site in Harlem on March 17, 2021.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo speaking at a vaccination site in Harlem on March 17, 2021.
Photo by Seth Wenig-Pool/Getty Images

Cuomo aide Melissa DeRosa was later caught on audio recording admitting to top state Democrats that the administration obscured the death toll in the facilities because it feared a federal probe.

“He is one of Gov. Cuomo’s uncounted,” said Alvino of her dad. “He may be just a number to Melissa DeRosa that she omitted from her report, but to my family, he was the glue that kept us together.

“Us grieving families don’t want an apology, and we don’t want to break bread with Gov. Cuomo. I don’t even want to hear his voice at this point, to be perfectly honest with you,” she continued. “We want answers, accountability and justice.”

She went on to demand resignations, including from Cuomo and Health Commissioner Howard Zucker, as well as an independent investigation into the scandal.

Alvino spoke moments after state Assemblyman Ron Kim similarly blasted Cuomo while remembering his uncle, another nursing-home resident who died of COVID-19.

“If it wasn’t for him, I wouldn’t be here,” said Kim of his late uncle, US Army Captain Son Kim. “He sponsored my family’s immigration papers so we could be in this country.

“I came here at the age of 7 from South Korea, and it was him that sponsored our papers so we could be here.”

Assemblyman Ron Kim speaking at the memorial in Brooklyn on March 21, 2021.
Assemblyman Ron Kim speaking at the memorial in Brooklyn on March 21, 2021.
Gabriella Bass for New York Post

Kim, a Queens Democrat, drew chuckles from the crowd as he recalled his Republican uncle’s love of President Ronald Reagan.

“It was 1987, I remember. The Mets had just won the World Series. I like to tell people that I was named after [pitcher] Ron Darling,” said Kim. “But the truth is, my uncle wasn’t just a US Army captain, he was actually one of the first Republican Korean-Americans in the city of New York.

“You don’t have to clap for that,” joked the Democrat as applause broke out among the assembled. “He was a big fan of Ronald Reagan at the time. So he named me after Ronald Reagan, not Ron Darling.”

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