New York undercounted Covid deaths in nursing homes by up to 50%

State’s attorney general says that New York probably missed thousands of deaths caused by Covid-19

Gustaf Kilander
Washington, DC
Thursday 28 January 2021 17:46 GMT
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A new report says that New York state severely undercounted the number of Covid deaths of elderly people in nursing homes. 

State attorney general Letitia James said the administration under the leadership of Governor Andrew Cuomo likely miscalculated the number of deaths by as much as 50 per cent. The number of nursing home deaths according to the state is more than 8,500. 

The count of the number of deaths in nursing homes related to Covid-19 has been a source of scandal for the Cuomo administration, The New York Times reported. 

Mr Cuomo and officials from the state’s health department have been sensitive to suggestions that they have had a hand in the counting of nursing home deaths. They have been accused of hiding the actual number of deaths by not including the deaths of nursing home residents who were sent to hospitals before passing away. 

A 76-page report issued by Ms James found differences between the number of deaths reported to authorities and the number of deaths subsequently released by the health department.

A summary of the report says: “Preliminary data obtained by O.A.G. (Office of the Attorney General) suggests that 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 (Department of Health’s) published total nursing home death data.” 

In one example, a nursing home facility reported 11 deaths by early August which happened on the site of the facility. But the examination by the attorney general found that there had been 40 deaths stemming from the facility, 27 on-site and 13 in hospitals, The Times writes.

More than 42,000 people have died from Covid in New York State, which became one of the epicentres during the earlier days of the pandemic. Many considered Mr Cuomo’s televised briefings required viewing for his straightforward and honest depictions of what was happening in his state. But he could now be on a collision course with his attorney general and fellow Democrat Ms James. 

Her report also found that some nursing homes didn’t adhere to “critical infection control policies,” like isolating residents who had tested positive or testing employees for the virus. 

Mr Cuomo has rejected claims that his administration hasn’t done enough to protect the elderly, a group highly vulnerable to Covid-19. Mr Cuomo was heavily criticised for a memo issued on 25 March, in which nursing homes were ordered to readmit residents who had tested positive for the virus, a guideline which was later removed from the New York state health department website, according to Fox News.

The health department released a report in July that said that residents who were readmitted were “no longer contagious when admitted and therefore were not a source of infection,” and instead blamed the spread of the virus on employees who didn’t know that they were carrying and spreading Covid. 

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