NEW YORK, NY – According to a 76-page report released today by New York Attorney General Letitia James, state health agencies may have been undercounting deaths in nursing homes related to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic by as much as half.
James’ office had been conducting an investigation for several months into allegations that nursing homes throughout the state were not adhering to COVID-19 safety protocols, in addition to widening divergences between death totals reported by nursing homes and the numbers being reported by the NYS Department of Health, which reportedly excluded patients who died after being transported to a hospital from a nursing facility.
“Among those findings were that a larger number of nursing home residents died from COVID-19 than the New York State Department of Health’s (DOH) published nursing home data reflected and may have been undercounted by as much as 50 percent,” according to a statement released by James’ office. “Many nursing home residents died from COVID-19 in hospitals after being transferred from their nursing homes, which is not reflected in D.O.H.’s published total nursing home death data.”
The report has increased debate over the early policies during the pandemic of New York Governor Andrew Cuomo as they relate to nursing homes. When COVID-19 began to heat up in the state, Cuomo directed nursing homes to take in patients who were either infected with COVID-19 or who potentially had it; as a result, countless seniors were infected and hundreds of deaths were reported.
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Governor Cuomo has also come under fire for not revealing the total sum of residents in nursing homes who passed away due to COVID-19-related issues. According to James’ statement, her office also discovered that many nursing homes did not adhere to “critical infection control policies,” including quarantining patients who had tested positive for COVID-19.
James’ noted that her office’s findings reflect the 62 nursing homes throughout the state that were surveyed – accounting for ten percent – and that her office will continue to investigate the matter.
“As the pandemic and our investigations continue, it is imperative that we understand why the residents of nursing homes in New York unnecessarily suffered at such an alarming rate,” James’ statement said. “While we cannot bring back the individuals we lost to this crisis, this report seeks to offer transparency that the public deserves and to spur increased action to protect our most vulnerable residents.”