New York Attorney General Letitia James released a report Thursday revealing that the Cuomo Administration “undercounted” the number of coronavirus-related nursing home deaths by nearly 50 percent.
The Office of the Attorney General began an investigation into New York nursing homes in March 2020. From April to November, the government hotline for citizens to report issues with nursing homes’ response to the pandemic received nearly 1000 complaints.
According to an online press release regarding the 76-page report, AG James discovered that “a larger number of nursing home residents died from COVID-19 than the New York State Department of Health’s (DOH) published nursing home data reflected and may have been undercounted by as much as 50 percent.”
AG James says that this discrepancy is likely because nursing home residents who died from COVID-19 in hospitals after being transferred from their nursing homes were not counted in the DOH’s published total nursing home death data. She also cites nursing home staff underreporting the number of deaths to DOH.
AG James attributed the high death count to a “lack of compliance with infection control protocols,” low staffing rates, “insufficient personal protective equipment (PPE) for nursing home staff,” and “insufficient COVID-19 testing for residents and staff in the early stages of the pandemic.”
Cuomo has been accused of contributing to the high death count of nursing home residents due to an order requiring patients infected with COVID-19 be returned to the nursing home. In an interview on ABC’s The View, Cuomo called this a “conspiracy.” However, AG James’ report states that this move may have contributed.
“Government guidance requiring the admission of COVID-19 patients into nursing homes may have put residents at increased risk of harm in some facilities and may have obscured the data available to assess that risk,” the report states.
The press release reveals that AG James will continue to conduct this investigation focusing on more than 20 nursing homes whose reported conduct during the first wave of the pandemic presented the most concerns.
“As the pandemic and our investigations continue, it is imperative that we understand why the residents of nursing homes in New York unnecessarily suffered at such an alarming rate,” AG James said.