Imagine being trapped alone in a small cell for two months with no visitors, knowing that a fire was raging outside your cage, getting closer and closer with each long, passing day.
You hear the screams daily. You hear the anguished pleas.
“Help me! We’re dying! I want to go home!”
This goes on for weeks and each day when they come to check on you, you ask.
“What’s going on? Why won’t anyone tell me what’s going on?”
It’s as if everyone has a huge secret to tell, but no one is talking.
The outside world has long been a secret to you, except for the rare times your family visits.
You are alone and have been, but now, it’s different.
Something is happening out there and that sinking feeling in your stomach tells you people are dying. The fire is out-of-control and enveloping everything around you and creeping closer.
You hear the coughs and the pain and the misery. You see it on the faces of those who come to adjust your pillow or give you pills and food.
They are like weary ghosts, those who come in. Some try to be cheerful but they, too, are scared and overworked and sick.
I do not want to die like this. Please, someone help us.
And no one listens.
The realization strikes you, sending a chill down your old, tired spine: You are going to die a horrible, painful death.
At some point, many weeks ago, a decision was made: Let the old and the feeble die.
It began at the top: Gov. Andrew Cuomo issued a mandate that nursing homes MUST accept people suffering with COVID-19.
Isolate them and care for them until they die, he told nursing homes.
Oh, and do not allow anyone to visit them, for fear of spreading this to the outside world.
Don’t worry, he said. We will provide you with supplies, with face masks and gowns and sanitizer. Anything you want, just ask.
Oh, one more thing: If you work at a nursing home and contract the virus, you still have to come to work. You are essential, remember?
The saying is, that dung rolls downhill.
In Albion, it rolled all the way down to The Villages of Orleans,
It was during the first week of April that I began getting texts and seeing Facebook posts: Something bad was going on at The Villages.
Staff, the underpaid and overworked nurses aides and orderlies, were being lied to. They knew the sickness had infiltrated the nursing home.
No, no no, they were told. We’re fine. Just do your job or we will fire you.
They had no face masks or other equipment that would help protect them from this pandemic, protect them and their families at home.
No, that is locked away. You will be fine. Stop complaining.
Even as the residents began dying, even as the number of positive cases grew, those who worked at The Villages say that administration turned a blind eye.
Even as more and more quit, as more turned to the media for help, nothing was done.
Even as the families of those who had loved ones living at The Villages pleaded for answers, for help, no one came.
At some point, they made a decision to let them die, alone and scared.
And no one said a word.
The Villages, once county-owned, is now a privately-owned death house, as are many of the nursing homes suffering the worst.
Absentee landlords, rich and uncaring, is what they are. Well, they care about money.
Here, in Albion, we have not heard one word from the administration at The Villages. They refuse to speak to the media and instead issue a bland statement.
We have not heard one word from local leaders, our legislators who have not voiced a single word of outrage or made any attempts to stop the travesty that is The Villages.
Except, months too late, a bland statement from the chairwoman.
We have not heard one word from our state representatives until only now, when they, too, issue their bland statements.
Thoughts and prayers. We are saddened and outraged.
So late to the party, they are, and when all this is over will anyone hold them accountable?
Probably not because they know, once this passes, all will be forgotten because they know that most of us are but sheep and those who are not will be suppressed into submission.
And, anyway, who cares about a bunch of frail old people? Too many old people in the world as it is.
Better them than us.
Scott DeSmit is a general assignment reporter for The Daily News. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org