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THE CITY, Columbia Journalism Investigations and Type Investigations Collaborate on Groundbreaking Investigation Uncovering Experimental COVID-19 Treatments on Dozens of Veterans

A New York State-run veterans nursing home in St. Albans, Queens, administered a cocktail of hydroxychloroquine and azithromycin, despite safety warnings and doubts about efficacy.

NEW YORK, NY — THE CITY (www.thecity.nyc), an award-winning, nonprofit digital news outlet dedicated to hard-hitting reporting that serves the people of New York, published this week, in collaboration with Columbia Journalism Investigations (CJI) and Type Investigations, a groundbreaking investigation, uncovering experimental COVID-19 treatments given to dozens of veterans in a Queens nursing home. The seven-month investigation was led by Dean Russell, a reporting fellow for CJI, and Yoav Gonen, a senior reporter for THE CITY.

NYC Nursing Home Gave Dozens of Veterans Experimental COVID-19 Treatments. Some Families Had No Idea” includes the story of Yvonne Parson who said her deceased father James Hutcherson, a World War II veteran, was given the experimental treatment without her knowledge.

“If they’d told me anything... I would have told him, you cannot give that to my father. He’s 93 years old,” Parson said. “There’s no way in hell I would have let them give my father that medication.”

Key findings from the investigation include:

  • New York State, which licenses and inspects more than 600 nursing homes, allowed the facilities to administer hydroxychloroquine to patients exposed to COVID-19, even after experts warned against its use in non-hospital settings or for elderly and vulnerable patients.
  • New York State Veterans’ Home at St. Albans in Queens administered hundreds of doses of hydroxychloroquine and azithromycin to at least 62 residents, according to interviews and documents reviewed by THE CITY, Columbia Journalism Investigations and Type Investigations.
  • THE CITY, CJI and Type Investigations were able to track down the families of 10 residents who received the drugs. None of those families recall being informed of the laundry list of potential side effects. Eight say they did not learn about the use of the drugs until after they were administered — in some cases, months later when families received a medical bill or were contacted for this story.

The story was produced as part of MISSING THEM, THE CITY’s ongoing collaborative project to remember every New Yorker killed by COVID-19 and is a telling example of the power of partnerships and engagement journalism. Since the launch of MISSING THEM in May 2020, nearly 2,000 names have been verified, more than 500 families have reached out via questionnaire, voicemail, email or text, and nearly 300 obituaries have been written.

“This is an incredible piece of journalism and a great example of how crowdsourcing and engagement can lead to investigative journalism,” said Terry Parris Jr., engagement director for THE CITY, who also heads the MISSING THEM project with co-manager Anjali Tsui and Derek Kravitz.

“Bylines can be misleading,” said Russell. “This story was produced, shaped and strengthened by a team of reporters and editors — not to mention the New Yorkers who shared their stories with us. Because of this collective effort, a single MISSING THEM obituary entry turned into a seven-month investigation of state and federal actions that otherwise may have gone overlooked.”

“This story is a testament to the power of reporting collaborations,” said Kristen Lombardi, editor at Columbia Journalism Investigations, the investigative-reporting unit at the Columbia Journalism School. “We hope you agree the result is an impactful piece of public-interest journalism.”

“This is what collaborative journalism is all about,” said Cassi Feldman, executive editor of Type Investigations. “Deep, original reporting that asks hard questions and demands answers.”

For more on MISSING THEM, click here.

ABOUT THE CITY: THE CITY is an independent, nonprofit news outlet dedicated to hard-hitting reporting that serves the people of New York. Our reporters pound the pavement in all five boroughs, working with New Yorkers to tell their stories and make their lives better. We’re here to listen to New Yorkers, dig into their concerns and deliver stories that drive the public conversation and set the agenda on key issues. At a time when the media has been upended by technological, economic and political shifts, we want to reconnect people back to local news – and reconnect local news to getting action.

ABOUT COLUMBIA JOURNALISM INVESTIGATIONS: Columbia Journalism Investigations is a team of leading investigative reporters, Columbia University faculty, postgraduate fellows, graduate students and others who produce deep investigations into urgent matters of public interest, without respect to specific beats.

ABOUT TYPE INVESTIGATIONS: Type Investigations incubates high-impact investigative reporting that holds the powerful accountable. We bring underreported stories to light, cultivate diverse journalistic talent, and create a home for independent journalism that serves the public.”

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