New York adds 1,700 previously undisclosed deaths from nursing homes to coronavirus tally

Number now includes those that died before diagnosis could be confirmed as state faces scrutiny over policy moves

Oliver O'Connell
New York
Tuesday 05 May 2020 16:39 BST
Governor Cuomo says New York coronavirus restrictions will be extended until May 15

New York state has added more than 1,700 previously undisclosed deaths at nursing homes and adult care facilities to the total of coronavirus fatalities.

For the first time, this includes people believed to have been killed by the coronavirus before their diagnoses could be confirmed by a lab test.

The state faces scrutiny over what it has done to protect vulnerable residents during the coronavirus pandemic.

At least 4,813 people have died from Covid-19 in the state’s nursing homes since 1 March, according to a tally released by Governor Andrew Cuomo’s administration late on Monday.

The exact number of nursing home deaths still remains uncertain, as despite this new information, the list doesn’t include care home residents transferred to hospital before dying.

The revised list shows that 22 nursing homes, largely in New York City and Long Island, have reported at least 40 deaths.

Parker Jewish Institute in Queens and Isabella Geriatric Centre — one of New York City’s largest nursing homes with 705 beds — have reported the highest number of deaths: 71 and 64, respectively.

The problem extends beyond nursing and care homes — several veterans homes have been especially hard-hit by the virus. The Long Island State Veterans Home reported 53 deaths; including 48 confirmed and five presumed Covid-19 deaths. The New York State Veterans Home at St Albans in Queens has reported 33 deaths, while New York State Veterans Home at Montrose in Westchester says 22 residents have died.

Governor Cuomo promised on 2 March that a “special effort” would be made for for nursing homes. The facilities were first told to screen visitors, then modify visiting hours, and eventually on 12 March suspended visits.

The Cuomo administration is facing criticism for its role in overseeing state-regulated nursing homes that have been overwhelmed by the pandemic.

Advocacy groups for residents and their families have called for greater transparency over Covid-19 cases at each state-regulated nursing home. They criticised a state law from 1 April that granted some immunity to hospitals and nursing homes from civil and criminal liability.

They have also questioned the state’s 25 March policy that says: “no resident shall be denied re-admission or admission to a nursing home solely based on a confirmed or suspected diagnosis of Covid-19.”

The governor and his administration have defended that policy as ensuring nursing home residents aren’t left lingering in hospitals or without anywhere else to go, arguing that the policy follows federal guidance.

The same guidance says that a home can only accept a resident with Covid-19 if it can follow guidance on transmission precautions.

Mr Cuomo has said the state has facilities that can house transferred Covid-19 nursing home patients, and that homes that tell the state upfront that they can’t care for patients with the virus wouldn’t face regulatory scrutiny.

New York state has more than 319,000 confirmed cases of Covid-19, and has recorded 19,415 deaths as of Tuesday morning.

With reporting from the Associated Press

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