Photo by tetiana.photographer via Shutterstock

New York Attorney General Letitia James released a 76-page report on Jan. 28 which found a much larger number of nursing home deaths from COVID-19 than the state data originally showed. 

Since March of 2020, the attorney general investigated nursing homes across the state after allegations of patient neglect and other concerning conduct that may have been jeopardizing the health and safety of patients and employees. 

Among her findings were as much as 50% of nursing home deaths in New York had not been accounted for in the New York State Department of Health’s (DOH) published nursing home data.

New York Gov. Cuomo’s administration did not include the nursing home patients who were transferred to the hospital and later died of COVID-19 in the official number. The attorney general’s report found this included over 8,500 deaths

The report shows data from the 62 nursing homes investigated, which is 10% of the total number of homes in New York. A survey from those nursing homes, regarding both onsite and hospital deaths from COVID-19. The survey found discrepancies between deaths reported to investigators and the official tally from the state health department.

The Health Department reported 11 deaths at one nursing home, while the survey found that there were 27 deaths onsite and 13 in hospitals. 

In addition to the undercounted deaths, the attorney general’ reported a lack of compliance with infection control protocols from many nursing homes, putting patients and employees at risk for contracting and spreading COVID-19. It also found that facilities with smaller staff had higher COVID-19 death rates. Some nursing homes also did not properly screen or test employees, and did not properly isolate infected residents.  

This is likely to spark debate over Cuomo’s COVID-19 nursing home policies. One of the policies states patients should return to nursing homes as they are recovering from COVID-19, in order to free up space in overcrowded hospitals. However  the report cited this policy as a potential cause of excess deaths. 

“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,” said the New York Attorney General Letitia James in a statement.  

“Nursing homes residents and workers deserve to live and work in safe environments, and I will continue to work hard to safeguard this basic right during this precarious time.” 

The attorney general will continue her investigation on more than 20 nursing homes in New York after reported conduct “presented particular concern.”

Cuomo’s Response

On Jan. 29 Gov. Cuomo held a press conference to discuss the report. Cuomo noted that the State Department of Health had followed the federal guidance. 

“Everyone did the best they could…The State Department of Health followed federal guidance. So if you think there was a mistake then go talk to the federal government,” Cuomo said. 

“It’s not about pointing fingers or blame. It’s that this became a political football.” 

Cuomo continued to say that the bottom line issue was that people had died from the pandemic. 

“The same people are dying today. 96% of the people who die, are older people with comorbidities, which happens to be the population that lives in nursing homes.”

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Written ByHaley Weger

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