New York State Attorney General Letitia James released a report on Thursday detailing the investigations her office has conducted into nursing homes policies and actions during the pandemic. The report shows that the nursing home deaths in New York State were likely undercounted by up to 50 percent.
The investigation, ongoing since March, when Governor Andrew Cuomo issued his directive to send COVID patients back to nursing homes following hospitalizations, was begun due to allegations of "patient neglect and other concerning conduct," according to The Post-Journal.
Cuomo made headlines earlier this week for saying that "incompetent government kills people."
The New York State Department of Health's figures on deaths in nursing homes from COVID showed far less death than James' latest findings. Cuomo and the Dept. of Health reported more than 8,500, and Cuomo has consistently and repeatedly denied that his policies had any negative impact on nursing home deaths in the state.
In July, the Dept. of Health tried to counter the claim that sending patients back to nursing homes while they were still contagious had occurred, saying the patients "were no longer contagious when admitted and therefore were not a source of infection." James' investigation reveals that this was untrue.
James' investigation focuses on 20 nursing homes that are of particular concern. She stated: "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."
"While we cannot bring back the individuals we lost to this crisis," James said, "this report seeks to offer transparency that the public deserves and to spur increased action to protect our most vulnerable residents. Nursing homes residents and workers deserve to live and work in safe environments, and I will continue to work hard to safeguard this basic right during this precarious time."
The report from the Office of the Attorney General comes in at 76 pages, and the death count was only one of the inconsistencies found between what the Dept. of Health reported and what the AG found.
A summary of the report read that "Preliminary data obtained by OAG suggests that many nursing home residents died from Covid-19 in hospitals after being transferred from their nursing homes, which is not reflected in DOH's published total nursing home death data." James found additionally that there were several nursing homes that "failed to comply with critical infection control policies."
The basics of the AG's report are: many more nursing home residents died from COVID than the official state numbers show; many homes didn't follow the guidance to keep contagion at bay; the residents of homes that were not well-staffed suffered more; a lack of personal protective equipment among staff and residents was a factor in increased contagion; a lack of testing in these facilities meant the extent of the contagion was unknown for far too long.
Additionally, the report found that Cuomo's policy from March that required COVID patients to be returned to nursing homes, or for COVID patients to be admitted to nursing homes, likely put residents directly in harm's way.
The undercount of the deaths of nursing home residents is likely due to the fact that is a person was transferred from their care home to a hospital and then died in the hospital, that death was not counted as a nursing home death.
James' office compared the deaths that were reported to the Dept. of Health by nursing homes and found that one nursing home had underreported by 29 the number of deaths from COVID that took place at their facility for one day in August alone.