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Apologies aren’t meant to change the past, they are meant to change the future.”

I remembered this quote Tuesday as I was driving home from New York Governor’s meeting with Sean. Kathy Hochul. We were invited to the meeting after the governor saw us at a rally outside her Manhattan office a few weeks ago when we were advocating on behalf of the loved ones we lost to COVID last spring in separate long term care facilities.

It was small and closed-door meeting. There were no pictures taken inside the office. This was a chance to speak up and make your voice heard.

 Daniel Arbeeny, Haydee Pabney, Assemblyman Ron Kim, Alexa Rivera Janice Dean, her husband Sean Newman and Peter Arbeeny pose for a photo before meeting with New York Gov. Hochul  about 2020 COVID nursing home deaths on October 12, 2021.

Before meeting with the New York Governor, Daniel Arbeeny and Haydee Pabney pose together for a photograph. Hochul about 2020 COVID nursing home deaths on October 12, 2021.

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This was the first time our family has ever been acknowledged by the governor‘s office. She walked up to us and offered her condolences.

I’m sorry about your loss. I thanked her and asked for the opportunity to talk with me about what I’d been working for over these past months.

Without any of us knowing on March 25th of 2020 former Gov. Andrew Cuomo issued an executive order to admit over 9,000 COVID positive patients into New York nursing homes for 46 days. Cuomo was aware of the danger to our senior citizens and warned that it would spread like fire through dry grass.

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It’s still a mystery to us as to why he and his health office decided to light the match. Cuomo was not honest and admitted that it was an awful decision. He lied to, denials, and blamed others, while covering up the deaths. Cuomo could have met families and expressed condolences but decided that it was better to write a book than lose an Emmy.

Many of us grieving relatives wanted to be acknowledged for our grief and pain. We were instead accused of being political for trying to find out why loved ones had been put in such grave danger. My friend, and fellow advocate New York State Assemblyman Ron Kim arranged the sit-down. He lost his uncle COVID at a nursing home.

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I am so grateful for his kindness and leadership through all of this. Without him, Tuesday’s meeting wouldn’t have been possible.

Gov. Hochul was generous and compassionate with her time. Hochul was open to hearing from us all and wanted to know how we could begin the healing process. She also offered suggestions on the best way to make it happen.

My husband Sean is very private and finds it difficult to openly talk about the loss. She was able to understand how difficult it was to lose both of his parents within such a brief time span without him being able comfort or see them.

Dee and Mickey Newman in an undated family photograph.

Dee and Mickey Newman pose in an undated family photo.
(Courtesy Janice Dean)

He told her how he brought his mom flowers a few days after his father died, but couldn’t hug her. He was six feet from her, telling her to hold on. This would be over. That was his last visit to her before she died from cancer.

Janice Dean's in-laws Dee and Mickey Newman attend their son Sean's promotion ceremony to battalion chief

Janice Dean’s parents, Dee and Mickey Newman attended Sean’s promotion to the rank of battalion chief.
(Courtesy Janice Dean)

Seeing my husband sharing this with the governor brought me right back to what it was like a year and a half ago. My emotions of shock, grief, and confusion swept over me. I couldn’t even catch my breath.

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I cried listening to my friends Peter and Daniel Arbeeny talk about their father Norman, asking if his death counted in Gov. Cuomo’s whitewashing of the numbers.

Alexa Rivera and Haydee Pabey showed Gov. Hochul photos of Ana and Elba, their mothers.

New York Gov. Kathy Hochul speaks to reporters after a ceremonial swearing-in ceremony at the state Capitol, Tuesday, Aug. 24, 2021, in Albany, N.Y. 

New York Governor Kathy Hochul speaks to reporters after a ceremonial swearing-in ceremony at the state Capitol, Tuesday, Aug. 24, 2021, in Albany, N.Y.
(AP Photo)

Gov. Hochul stated that her administration will be transparent moving forward. We were assured by Hochul that she would cooperate with our administration. She looked at us and thanked for being such strong advocates.

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Cuomo wanted everyone to believe this was about politics. This was never about politics. It was not a room full of Republicans or Democrats expressing their heartfelt feelings.

It was all about people helping others and being there for those who were in pain.

I left that meeting feeling hopeful. This is something that I’ve not felt in a while.

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But, Gov. Hochul’s actions will be more powerful than any words. An apology will not bring our loved ones back, but it may change how things are handled going forward in order to ensure the safety of other families.

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