WEST ISLIP, Long Island (WABC) -- A New York lawmaker joined families who lost loved ones in nursing homes Tuesday to question what they call a "misguided" directive by Governor Andrew Cuomo and the Department of Health to send COVID-19 patients to long-term care facilities.
Assemblyman Mike LiPetri is now demanding an independent investigation and accountability for the reported 5,000 nursing home deaths during the coronavirus pandemic.
"There weren't enough people to take care of our parents," said Lorry Sullivan, whose mother passed away. "We couldn't take care of them."
And the result was a loss so monumental that surviving relatives can't help but look back and wonder if anything should have been done differently.
"What was the real reason, the motive behind this directive?" LiPetri said. "Because clearly, it's not common sense."
Back on March 25, Cuomo's state directive said COVID-positive patients could be admitted to nursing homes. At Our Lady of Consolation in West Islip, at least 39 patients died of COVID in the days that followed, including Lorraine Sullivan, who died on her 89th birthday.
"When he passed that order, the facilities were blindsided," Lorry Sullivan said. "The facilities were clearly understaffed."
Jeff Weber's mother died, too. and he was also mindful of the governor's earlier words.
"I believe at the onset, there was a quote, 'My mother's not expendable. Your mother's not expendable. My family's not expendable. Your family's not expendable,'" he said. "Well, I can't help but feel my mother was."
LiPetri now wants a federal investigation of the directive, but for his part, Cuomo says this isn't about politics and that New York, like other states, was following federal guidelines.
"Don't criticize the state for following the president's policies," he said.
In a statement, the nursing home insisted they have now "further enhanced safety measures" including regular testing of patients, separating symptomatic patients, and monitoring staff.
It's little consolation to these families who never go to say goodbye and have still unanswered questions.
MORE CORONAVIRUS COVID-19 COVERAGE
COVID-19 Help, Information. Stimulus and Business Updates
Grieving the lost: Tri-State residents who have died
Share your coronavirus story with Eyewitness News
Stimulus check scams and other coronavirus hoaxes
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on coronavirus
Total count of NYC, Long Island COVID-19 cases based on patient address