Over the past year, sisters Vivian Rivera Zayas and Alexa Rivera have been on a crusade for justice over what they describe as the “murder” of their mother, who died last year in a New York nursing home.
Ana Celia Martinez, 78, died from COVID-19 on April 1st, 2020 and her daughters are demanding answers from Governor Andrew Cuomo, whose policies toward nursing homes are under increasing scrutiny.
“I want the governor to know my mother’s name,” Alexa, one of the grief-stricken daughters, said in an interview with Fox News. “I want him to know that Ana Celia Martinez’s life mattered to many people.”
A lifelong New Yorker, Ana Martinez contracted the virus last March while at Our Lady of Consolation Nursing & Rehabilitative Care Center in West Islip, Long Island. A temporary resident at the facility, she had been admitted to the facility in January to receive rehab for a knee replacement surgery.
While in the process of being discharged, the 78-year-old was forced to remain in the care center after lockdowns swept the nation in an attempt to curb the coronavirus outbreak.
Within the first two weeks after lockdowns began, Martinez alerted her family she was unwell, and was experiencing signs of COVID-19 including body aches and a fever. When her daughters brought it to the attention of Our Lady of Consolation, the nursing home downplayed their mother’s condition.
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“They lied to us. At no point did the nursing home tell us that my mother was even a COVID-19 suspect,” a frustrated Rivera recalled. “They didn’t tell us anything other than she was fine.”
According to the 47-year-old, the sisters had to threaten to call police before the nursing home finally took action in getting a rapidly deteriorating Martinez medical attention at a neighboring hospital.
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Within 24 hours, the 78-year-old had a collapsed lung and her kidneys failed. The following morning the sisters received a call from the attending doctors at the ICU, informing them their mother had died from COVID-19.
“The thoughts of my mother dying alone, gasping for air, haunt me,” cried Rivera.
She admits to feeling betrayed by New York Governor Andrew Cuomo, whom both she and her mother voted for, and expressed disgust at the lack of empathy that he has shown.
“Your decisions have left a path of broken hearts and families,” Rivera spoke directly to the governor. “We’re still trying to pick up the pieces while you write a book and toot your own horn.”
Also disappointed with the Democratic Party, of which she has been a loyal voter, Rivera questioned why there has not been more outrage over the unfolding scandal.
“There are very few Democrats that have stepped up at this point,” she admonished. “The Republicans have been forthcoming. They have given us the time of day to hear our testimonies and also promised to help at some point.”
In a statement sent to Fox News this week, Jack Sterne, a Cuomo administration spokesperson, said, “The Governor is focused on getting as many vaccines into arms as humanly possible while continuing to manage this public health emergency.”
“New York went from one of the highest COVID positivity rates in the country to one of the lowest and has administered over 2 million shots, including 92% of all first doses we’ve received — which is exactly why the vast majority of New Yorkers approve of the Governor’s job fighting COVID.”
Shortly after the death of their mother, sisters Vivian and Alexa founded “Voices for Seniors,” a group that now includes many family members of the more than 15,000 seniors who lost their lives last spring due to Cuomo’s executive order on nursing homes. The group’s mission is to advocate for protective legislation and reform for seniors in nursing homes.
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Despite the pain and suffering they have endured, the two women view it as an opportunity to get justice for their mother and seek real reform in the treatment of seniors.
“Our fight started because of her and if there is reform then the loss of my mother’s life was not in vain.”
Over the past week, Cuomo has faced increasing pressure from state Democratic lawmakers, including Assemblyman Ron Kim’s allegation that Cuomo threatened him and others who want Cuomo’s emergency pandemic powers revoked.