Woman whose father who died in nursing home says without answers 'there's really no closure'

His name is Anthony Rodriguez. He was an “amazing father” and most commonly seen as the “John Wayne” of the household before he died, his daughter, Joann Rodriguez, told Fox News. 

Joann Rodriguez was not only one of his primary caretakers while he was in the nursing home. And her time with him was abruptly cut short earlier this year after more than 9,000 recovering coronavirus patients in New York state were released from hospitals into nursing homes. 

The Cuomo administration’s March 25 directive barred nursing homes from refusing people just because they had COVID-19. It was intended to free up space in hospitals swamped in the early days of the pandemic.

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Anthony Rodriguez was one of nearly 15,000 nursing home residents who died after the order was implemented. 

“They allowed us FaceTime visits with my dad because we could not go in. And that happened twice, three times a week with me and my sister,” Joann Rodriguez told Fox News. “At the very beginning of April that changed.” 

The Rodriguez family had tried to contact the nursing home several times by phone, email and text multiple times but couldn’t get ahold of anyone. 

It wasn’t until later they found out about the order, which effectively “created a war zone inside the nursing home,” she said. 

Even before the pandemic, nursing homes had already faced insufficient staffing and did have not enough adequate care, Joann Rodriguez said. 

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“They relied on me and my sister to come in and help feed him, to help do the simple hygiene, things like clipping his nails,” she said. “I mean, we actually did a lot in his care because they lacked sufficient staffing.” 

Knowing this, she said that it’s impossible to fathom why the order was put in place, calling it a “very callous decision.” 

The last time she saw her father was on FaceTime from the emergency room. He died two days later on April 28. 

“I just felt so helpless, helpless towards him,” she said. “He had a lot, a lot of life in him left.” 

She described her father as a warm and welcoming man who was quiet but “very, very strong-minded.” In fact, he was to go-to in an emergency situation.

Even on FaceTime, he always smiled and finished every conversation with “I love you,” she said. 

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It’s been almost a year since Joann Rodriguez and her family lost him to the pandemic. However, they still struggle with being “denied the right to know what happened” and why.  

“There’s really no closure,” she said. “When you finally find out about this mandate that potentially killed thousands … it’s incomprehensible that our government could do that.” 

Even after her father died, the nursing home didn’t answer their questions, she said. 

“In fact, they blew it off,” she said. “And the only thing they had to tell us was ‘when will you be able to pick up your father’s belongings?'”

The decision was “irresponsible and it’s unacceptable” Joann Rodriguez said. Her hope is that those who are responsible are finally held accountable.

“[It’s] something that needs to be brought out into the open and people need to be held accountable,” she said. 

The Associated Press contributed to this report.