Janice Dean is Fox News’ senior meteorologist. She lost both of her in-laws to COVID-19, and then was pulled from testifying at hearings on New York nursing home deaths. Why was she prevented from testifying, and what does she think of how New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo has handled COVID-19? Dean joins the podcast to discuss.
Rachel del Guidice: I’m joined today on “The Daily Signal Podcast” by Fox News’ senior meteorologist, Janice Dean. Janice, it’s wonderful to have you with us on “The Daily Signal Podcast.”
Janice Dean: I appreciate the interest. Thank you for having me.
Del Guidice: Well, thank you so much for making the time to be with us. You did lose both of your in-laws to COVID-19. Can you tell us what happened?
Dean: We put my father-in-law in a nursing home. He had bigger health issues than my mother-in-law did. He needed some rehab and he had dementia, so we were trying to get him in better shape to join my mother-in-law in her assisted living facility, which was close to our home here on Long Island.
They weren’t in their respective eldercare facilities for very long. Sean and I, my husband, for months and months just were having a hard time deciding what to do because they couldn’t take care of themselves. They couldn’t take care of each other. They lived in a four-story walk-up in Brooklyn for 60 years that was rent-controlled.
At first, we had aides going into their apartment to take care of them, but there were still trips to the ER. Then finally we found a nice place that was close to us that would take both of them once Mickey, my father-in-law, got better.
Then not long after they were in their new living arrangements COVID-19 came in play. My father-in-law died at the end of March, and we didn’t even know he was sick. We weren’t able to visit him.
We were getting fairly regular updates and Sean was talking to him, but again, he had dementia, so it was hard for him to keep a conversation.
But we got a call on a Saturday morning and the aide said his dad wasn’t feeling well, he had a fever, and three hours later we get a call back saying he was dead, and that we should phone the funeral home.
We had no clue he was even sick, and then we didn’t even know he had died of COVID until we saw the death certificate.
With his mom, my husband had to deliver the news to his mom that his dad had passed away, and she didn’t, obviously, take that very well.
I think from that point on she wasn’t doing very well emotionally. Then she got sick in her assisted living residence, and they brought her to the hospital where she was diagnosed with COVID, and she died in the hospital.
One of the things that I’m very vocal about is the fact that her number does not count. Now, finally, after all these months we’re starting to see articles about the fact that we think that the numbers are hidden, and that the 6,000 number of deaths in nursing homes is actually probably double that amount because they aren’t counting the nursing home deaths in the hospital.
Del Guidice: That’s tragic. We’re very sorry for your guys’ loss. Before we get into more of what happened following their deaths, can you talk a little bit about what your in-laws were like as people, how long you had known them before their deaths?
Dean: I met my husband in 2002 and we dated for many years, and I of course met his parents. I remember the first day that I met Mickey. He was a runner. He was in great shape for many, many years of his life, and many years that I knew of him. He ran 800 races and documented each one in a little notebook, or several notebooks.
I remember the day I first met Mickey, he had just finished a run, and he was standing by his car with his shirt off. My husband said, “That’s my dad. He’s always the guy with his shirt off,” and so I just remember that being quite funny and very true to Mickey.
Mickey was also a firefighter. My husband’s a firefighter as well. He had 23 years on the job before he retired.
He was also in the U.S. Air Force. He was stationed in Hawaii at Hickam, and he and my mother-in-law were pen pals. I do believe, if folklore is true, that his dad actually proposed to his mom through the letters that he wrote her when he was in Hawaii.
My mother-in-law was a devoted grandmother. She loved her grandkids.
My niece, Danielle, who is a little bit older than my kids, growing up she was Mickey’s little pet. They went everywhere together. They loved Long Island, Silver Point Beach Club, Atlantic Beach—where my husband grew up and became a lifeguard. They were true New Yorkers, born and bred, and they are the definition of New York tough.
Del Guidice: Thank you so much for sharing about them and just the kind of people that they were.
Going into the situation in New York as a whole, kind of looking at it from a wider angle, what do you think of how New York and especially Gov. Andrew Cuomo have handled COVID-19?
Dean: I think he does deserve praise in that he has brought the number of cases down, and through social distancing, and people just in general listening to the rules and regulations, we are now, I guess, an example of looking good.
But I’ve always used the example of the fire is out, or at least it’s almost out, but that doesn’t mean that the house didn’t burn down in the process. That’s how I look at it in terms of my family. We have lost not one, but two parents in the process.
The fact that he goes around and continues to tout his squashing of the curve, or the flattening of the curve, and his COVID mountain poster, and doing this sort of victory lap on the fact that New York is doing so well kind of ignores the fact that for many, many weeks and months we weren’t doing very well.
We lost over 30,000 people, and 6,000 of those, more if you really dig deep, were in the nursing homes.
For 46 days, there was a mandate in place that Gov. Cuomo signed that stated that COVID-positive patients were to be put in nursing homes. The governor knew this. He even was on the record as quoted, “A fire through dry grass,” and that’s exactly what happened in the nursing homes. The virus spread, it got through the walls, and it took our most vulnerable.
So I think the cover-up is happening right now, especially with the numbers. For many weeks Gov. Cuomo was never being asked the question about the nursing homes. I think he got used to not having to answer to that question. When he does get asked, he blames everybody except the person that signed the order, and that is Andrew Cuomo.
Del Guidice: You’ve been very outspoken about what happened to your in-laws, and you had reached out and wanted to testify about what happened during hearings in New York.
Can you tell us what happened? I know you were disinvited to those. Can you take us through? You were invited, and then this didn’t work out. Can you tell us what happened?
Dean: I found out that there were hearings in New York. There were two separate hearings about the nursing home tragedy in upstate New York in the Senate. I contacted my friend, Councilman Joe Borelli, and asked how I would be able to get myself on the list because I had a story to tell.
I believe that laws change not because of lawmakers talking about what they want to do in the Senate or grilling Howard Zucker with questions and him not answering them. That doesn’t change the laws. It’s the stories of people that have experienced the losses.
So I wanted to make sure that I was able to tell my story in front of the lawmakers in upstate New York and put my story on the record, my husband’s story as well, of course.
I wrote the letters, and I wrote the emails, and I filled out the documents. I was told by Assemblyman Kevin Byrne, who was the only one that got back to me, that he had talked to the chair and that even though I couldn’t be on the August 3rd list of witnesses, the chair would put me on the list for August 10th.
I was to get an email, an invitation, on Friday that never came. I emailed my friend, Councilman Joe Borelli, and he broke the news to me that they were disinviting me, that I was no longer on the list. Then I got word from Assemblyman Kevin Byrne that that indeed was the situation, that they had taken me off the list. It was actually in writing that they were uncomfortable with me as a witness and that’s why they took me off.
Del Guidice: This happened … the same day of the hearing that you were supposed to testify.
Dean: They took me off the list, I believe, on Friday and never sent me anything until the actual hearings.
When the hearings were on I received a generic email that was, “We couldn’t accommodate you due to time.” And like I said, it was very generic. It was just sort of a “thanks, but no thanks.” I think someone probably guilted them into saying [that], “You should probably tell her something.”
Del Guidice: You’ve been really open about talking about how there should be a full and bipartisan investigation into New York’s nursing home deaths. Why do you think [that] and why should this happen?
Dean: Because Gov. Cuomo doesn’t want it to happen, and the only investigation we’ve had so far is one done by his administration that basically said he did nothing wrong.
It had nothing to do with his mandate that was put in place for 46 days of putting COVID patients into nursing homes. Rather, it was the nursing care workers and the visitors that brought the virus into their homes. We were never allowed to go see my in-laws as visitors, so that does not ring true.
I just think there needs to be a bipartisan investigation where there is subpoena powers involved, and people like Howard Zucker have to go on the record and answer those questions in front of lawmakers and families. And not just on a state level. It probably should be on a federal level.
Why not a 911-style commission hearing? Because New York wasn’t the only state that had this mandate in place. There’s four others, including New York, Pennsylvania, California, Michigan, New Jersey. They all had the same mandate of putting COVID-positive patients into nursing homes.
Del Guidice: How do you think New York lawmakers and Gov. Cuomo could reform the COVID-19 situation in this state?
Dean: I think they have to learn from their mistakes, and perhaps even on a broader scale look at our nursing homes and how they are still not safe for any kind of virus.
If this happens again, how are they prepared? There are stories of not enough [personal protective equipment], workers have stories. I’ve heard from nursing care workers that are afraid to tell their stories. They don’t want to lose their jobs. Just the way people are treated.
Of course there are some nursing homes that are an example of a safe place for our elderly. There are examples in New York that defied the governor’s orders and didn’t allow COVID-positive patients into nursing homes, and there are success stories.
I think we have to look to those stories to make a change because there is going to be another time and another place where we’re going to have to protect our elderly.
Del Guidice: Given your situation and everything that’s happened, everything that you’ve witnessed, has coronavirus become really politicized? Has that been more important than actually going to families and putting needs and wants of families first? Where would you say the lines have been drawn in that area?
Dean: I think it’s the time and the place we are living in that has added to the confusion and the agony of all of this. Everything is political these days. You can’t have an opinion without it being political.
I believe the fact that I wasn’t allowed to testify at the hearings was political because of where I work, even though I’m the weatherperson, and I’m the least political person that works there. It shouldn’t matter where I work. My family was affected by this.
So I think both sides have a problem with this. It’s not just a Republican or a Democrat. But when it comes to our loved ones, this is not about politics. I’m sure there are a lot of families that voted for Cuomo that have lost their loved ones that want answers.
Unfortunately, it’s the times that we’re living in where everything is politicized, unfortunately, and it’s a lot more so when it comes to losing our loved ones and trying to get our message across.
Del Guidice: As you mentioned, Janice, many Americans have lost loved ones in nursing homes. What’s your advice to them on how to advocate for their family members in nursing homes and how to support them during this pandemic?
Dean: You know, it’s, use your voice. Call your councilman. It didn’t work for me. Well, I shouldn’t say that because the fact that they didn’t have me come and speak has actually given me a bigger platform. More people know my story. More people know the story of how my in-laws lost their lives during this tragic time.
But as I mentioned, it’s the stories, and getting in front of people, getting in front of lawmakers, writing those letters, and trying to be as dedicated enough and getting involved in the cause.
I know it’s hard now because we’re in a time of a pandemic. It’s hard to get out there and protest. I was invited to a lot of protests, and I would have loved to have gone with my signs. There’s something to that. That’s an important part of having a voice.
It’s difficult right now with the times that we are in. But the messages do get through, and the emails do get to people. I just think there is safety in numbers, so if there’s enough of us that want to change, I truly believe that that can happen.
Del Guidice: Lastly, Janice, how has mainstream media responded to your story? I know you said that you have been given a bigger platform because of what did happen, unfortunately, but how’s the mainstream responded to it?
Dean: I’ve had a few interviews. I don’t think CNN is going to be calling me any time tomorrow. You know, I wish there was more. I wish there were more people that were asking the questions of Gov. Cuomo when he’s on NBC, and ABC, and on the newspapers.
There are a few publications. There are a few places that are getting the message across. I wrote an op-ed for USA Today, and I’m really glad that they published that. They didn’t edit me at all. They let me tell my story. I’m grateful for that.
I’ve had some local radio, and TV, and newspaper publications in New York state have been interested in the story now. We’ll see, but certainly not enough to raise awareness in mainstream media.
Del Guidice: Janice, thank you so much for taking the time to come on and tell your story and the story of your in-laws. It’s been great to have you with us.
Dean: I appreciate the interest. Thank you.
LifeNews Note: Rachel del Guidice writes for The Daily Signal, where this column originally appeared.