The official count of NY COVID-19 deaths in nursing homes isn’t telling the whole story. State Attorney General Letitia James said the recorded deaths are less than the actual number. This discrepancy holds the State Health Department and Governor Andrew Cuomo on the hook.
James’s office estimated the undercount on the death toll to around 55%. Based on the survey of 62 facilities, which comprises 10% of total state institutions. However, nearly 4,000 nursing home residents died from Covid-19 after being transferred to hospitals. When counted against the number of deaths in nursing homes, this increases the death toll by more than 40%.
Last year, Cuomo directed nursing homes in the state to accept COVID-19 patients. This led to a massive increase of infections among elderly patients. It also helped increase total NY COVID-19 deaths. In addition, it caused hundreds of deaths among the senior population. Cuomo said the policy is in line with Trump administration guidelines at the time.
The state Department of Health reported 5,957 COVID-19 deaths from nursing homes. They also reported 2,783 presumed deaths. In addition, assisted care facilities recorded 160 deaths and 52 presumed ones. Then, adding the number of nursing-home residents who died in the hospital (3,829) brings the total NY COVID-19 deaths to 12,743.
NY COVID-19 Deaths in Nursing Homes
The AG report said that Cuomo’s decision placed residents at increased risk. Also, it muddied the data available that assessed the risk. James’ office requested 62 nursing homes to submit data about COVID-19 deaths. One nursing home reported 27 COVID-19 deaths at the facility and 13 hospital deaths. However, an earlier report listed five confirmed and six presumed deaths.
The report submitted its findings from its investigation of allegations of patient neglect. It said that some facilities did not follow health protocols to prevent the spread of the virus. Ultimately, these inactions jeopardized the health and safety of both patients and employees. Nursing homes with low Medicaid and Medicare ratings recorded higher COVID-19 death rates. Also, homes usually lack enough personal protective equipment for staff. Add to that the low availability of testing facilities.
Senior New Yorkers
New York State Health Commissioner Dr. Howard Zucker said knowing how many nursing home residents died in a hospital is important. The state is currently auditing this information provided by nursing homes, he said. “The attorney general’s initial findings of wrongdoing by certain nursing home operators are reprehensible,” he said. Zucker said that they will follow up on all cases of misconduct, and will continue to work with the OAG.
As of January 28, 70% of New York’s nearly 35,000 COVID deaths consisted of those aged 70 and older. James also said that investigations will continue into more than 20 suspect nursing homes. “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. 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,” James said in a statement.
New York’s Emergency Disaster Treatment Protection Act
Nursing homes are COVID-19 hotspots across the United States and other countries. Housing senior citizens close to each other in homes poses a bigger infection risk. The elderly, often with serious health issues, are very susceptible. This is why these facilities account for at least 30% of COVID-19 deaths nationwide.
Making matters worse, Cuomo signed into law the Emergency Disaster Treatment Protection Act. This act provides civil and criminal immunity to health-care operators related to Covid-19. However, the protection does not apply to criminal or reckless acts or negligence. However, it may shield operators that do not strictly enforce health protocols.
Watch the CBS News video reporting that New York may have undercounted nursing home COVID deaths:
Should New York repeal the Emergency Disaster Treatment Protection Act? Also, how can New York, and other states prevent more deaths? Let us know what you think by leaving your comments below.