When Covid Hit Nursing Homes, Part 1: ‘My Mother Died Alone’

In the first of two episodes on what went wrong in New York’s nursing homes, we look at the crisis through the eyes of a bereaved daughter.

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When New York was the epicenter of the Covid-19 pandemic in the United States, Gov. Andrew Cuomo emerged as a singular, strong leader in the crisis. Now, his leadership is embattled and decisions at the peak of the crisis are being questioned.

One issue in particular is the subject of a political firestorm and a federal investigation: the extent of deaths in nursing homes.

Today, in the first of two parts, we look at the human face of the crisis through the case of Lorry Sullivan.

Lorry and Lorraine: A Mother and Daughter

Lorraine had a large extended family and they all loved her breads, her mashed potatoes and her potato salad. When Lorraine cooked for them, her daughter Lorry recalls, she would never get flustered and somehow always made sure there was enough food to go around.

Lorry also describes how beautiful her mother was, with auburn hair and light blue eyes. Which made it all the more shocking when Lorry saw her mother in her final days in a New York nursing home: “It looked nothing like her,” Lorry said. “Nothing. Nothing at all.”

Lorry’s mother was one of almost 70 residents in her nursing home who died of the coronavirus.

Lorry’s mother had entered the nursing home one month before the New York lockdown came into force. Lorry says she was discouraged from bringing her mother home and told she would be safer at the facility.

But communication with staff members, and her mother, started to break down as the home, like many others in the state, became overwhelmed by the pandemic.

On today’s episode

Amy Julia Harris, an investigative reporter on The New York Times’s Metro desk.

Background reading

Trying to quell a growing outcry over the state’s handling of nursing homes during the pandemic, Gov. Andrew Cuomo launched into a 90-minute defense of his actions while lashing out at critics.

The scrutiny of Covid-19 deaths in New York nursing homes has also put Governor Cuomo’s aggressive behavior in the spotlight.

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Amy Julia Harris contributed reporting.

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