Janice Dean, senior meteorologist at Fox News, is trying to raise awareness about the growing crisis of COVID-19 in nursing homes across the country after her husband’s parents died within a short period of time at two different facilities.

The Washington Post recently reported that more than 25,000 men and women, the matriarchs and patriarchs of many American families, have died in nursing homes from the coronavirus. Even more concerning is that while 1 in 5 facilities have reported a death, only about 80% of the nation’s facilities have even reported their numbers.

That’s what makes the decision to force nursing homes to accept recovering COVID patients made by New York Governor Andrew Cuomo and other governors all the more tragic and unnecessary. This exposed the nation’s most vulnerable population to the virus. Unfortunately, most families were unaware that this was happening. Cuomo finally reversed his order in early May.

For Dean and her family, this crisis is deeply personal as she lost her father- and mother-in-law to COVID-19 while they were living in two different nursing/assisted living homes in the New York area. The couple, who had been married for nearly 60 years, died within about two weeks of each other. It was so fast, that the Catholic couple didn’t even get a chance to receive the last rights.

“You know, we found out too late,” Dean said in an interview with The Daily Citizen. “We couldn’t get our loved ones out of a nursing home or an assisted living facility.”

The decision to seek the support of a nursing home/assisted-living facility wasn’t easy, but it seemed like the appropriate decision after several emergency room visits, despite having nursing assistance at home. Unfortunately, moving Dean’s in-laws to these facilities occurred right before the COVID outbreak began. The strict coronavirus quarantines in New York made visiting her in-laws difficult, making the situation even more tragic.

“I think my anger is that we found out too late,” Dean said. “The word was trying to get out to the nursing homes about this potential disaster, but this information never got to people with loved ones in a nursing home. We need to hold those people accountable.”

“I would like a nonpartisan investigation because this potentially is going to happen again, so we need to learn from all of the terrible mistakes that were made and build a better system all around.”

Dean is incredibly interested in helping and supporting any type of investigation, which is rare for the meteorologist, who doesn’t broadcast her political beliefs to her coworkers. But this isn’t about politics, it’s about saving the lives of elderly and vulnerable men and women across the country.

“It’s hard for me to be somebody that is politically active calling for accountability, but this should not be a Republican or Democrat thing,” Dean said. “I mean New York is a Democratic state, and I would assume that a lot of these people that might be Democrats have their parents in nursing or assisted living homes, so why wouldn’t they also want to hold the governor accountable for these policies that were really a death sentence?”

Despite having the assistance of the Mercy Ship docked in New York City Harbor and other options, the Governor placed sick patients in a confined location like a nursing home with healthy patients. In terms of epidemiological containment, it’s baffling.

This crisis is not just about the policy failures, but about the families that have been unable to properly grieve loved ones due to the restrictions put in place for COVID.

“It’s terrible. You know, we weren’t able to grieve properly, and we were lucky to have a very small burial service for them and it was only because my sister-in-law grew up with someone who owned a funeral home in Staten Island,” Dean said. “We have all these family members that live in the area that would have loved to have gone to the wake and the funeral. These are rituals that we have to help with the grieving process.”

Our elderly family members deserve the best support possible, and not politicians sentencing them to death by knowingly exposing them to COVID-19. As the nation opens up, though many families desire to reunite with those in quarantine in nursing homes, every effort should still be made to protect these vulnerable men and women who are the pillars of our family and society.

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