NY attorney general reveals Cuomo administration undercounted COVID-19 nursing home deaths by 50%

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New York state Democratic Attorney General Letitia James accused the Cuomo administration of severely undercounting the number of coronavirus-related deaths at nursing homes in the state by as much as 50% in a scathing new report released Thursday.

What are the details?

In the report, James determined much of the misrepresentation was due to the state counting only deaths that occurred at the actual nursing home facilities rather than including deaths that occurred at a hospital after a resident was transferred there to receive more medical care.

During the investigation, which surveyed 62 nursing homes across the state, James’ office reportedly found “consistent discrepancies between deaths reported to the attorney general’s investigators and those officially released by the Health Department,” the New York Times noted in its coverage of the matter.

The newspaper pointed to a specific instance in which an unnamed facility reported 11 confirmed and presumed deaths to the Health Department only for the attorney general’s office to later find that 40 deaths had taken place, including 27 at the home and 13 in hospitals.

“Preliminary data obtained by [the Office of 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 [Department of Health’s] published total nursing home death data,” investigators said in the report.

The report also determined that a number of nursing homes “failed to comply with critical infection control policies,” such as not isolating residents who had tested positive or preemptively screening employees for infections.

“In conclusion, this preliminary data for the 62 facilities and time periods noted above suggests that COVID-19 resident deaths associated with nursing homes in New York state appear to be undercounted by DOH by approximately 50 percent,” the report stated.

Why does it matter?

The news is sure to intensify scrutiny around Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s handling of the pandemic, especially since the governor has been accused specifically of mismanaging the health crisis at nursing home facilities and directly causing thousands of preventable deaths among the state’s vulnerable elderly population.

Last March, during the initial stages of the outbreak, Cuomo issued a directive forcing nursing home facilities to accept patients who had tested positive for the virus and been discharged from the hospital. As death tolls rose in such facilities, the deadly policy became the subject of harsh criticism, yet the Cuomo administration attempted to hide that it ever existed and waited until May to officially rescind it.

In the aftermath, Cuomo has repeatedly dodged responsibility for endangering elderly New Yorkers, instead attempting to shift blame to then-President Donald Trump and Republicans.