NY severely undercounted virus deaths in nursing homes, report says

ALBANY, NY – The New York State Attorney General has accused the Cuomo administration of undercounting coronavirus-related deaths in nursing homes by up to 50%, according to a report released Thursday.

The death tally in state nursing homes has been a source of controversy for Governor Andrew M. Cuomo and state health department officials, who have been sensitive to any suggestion that they have played a role in the number of deaths in retirement homes, which the state put at more than 8,500.

They were also accused of obscuring a more accurate estimate of nursing home deaths because the state only counted deaths in actual facilities, rather than including deaths of residents who were transferred to hospital and died there.

In the 76-page report released by Attorney General Letitia James, a survey of nursing homes found consistent discrepancies between deaths reported to attorney general investigators and those officially released by the Department of Health.

In one case, an unnamed facility reported 11 confirmed and suspected deaths to the Department of Health as occurring on-site through early August. However, the Attorney General’s investigation into the same establishment revealed 40 deaths, including 27 at home and 13 in hospitals.

“Preliminary data obtained by the OAG suggests that many nursing home residents have died from Covid-19 in hospitals after being transferred from their nursing homes, which is not reflected in the death data total published by the Ministry of Health, ”indicates a summary of the report’s findings.

The findings of Ms James, a Democrat, could put her in direct conflict with Mr Cuomo, the three-term Democratic incumbent of the state, who has touted his and his administration’s response to the coronavirus crisis, despite more than 42,000 deaths in the state. .

Ms James’ report also revealed a number of homes that “were not complying with critical infection control policies,” including failing to isolate residents who had tested positive for the virus or screening them. employees.

The death toll in state retirement homes has been a source of agony for residents and their families, and a political responsibility for Mr. Cuomo, who has rebuffed accusations that his administration failed to do so. enough to protect a very vulnerable population. In particular, Mr Cuomo came under fire for a March 25 memo from the Department of Health, which ordered nursing homes to accept patients who had tested positive.

At the end of July, the Department of Health released a report that refuted the claim that this policy could have led to outbreaks in nursing homes, finding instead that most of these patients “did not ‘were more contagious on admission and therefore were not a source of infection. The report also found that the virus had instead been spread by employees who did not know they were contagious.

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