New York state underreported the number of recovering Covid-19 patients that were released from hospitals into nursing home by around 40%, according to the Associated Press, putting a spotlight on Governor Andrew Cuomo’s controversial directive sent out in March last year that may have helped accelerate the spread of the virus in nursing homes with vulnerable residents.
The Associated Press reported that at least 9,056 recovering patients were sent back to hundreds of nursing homes in the state, under the now withdrawn directive.
The state health department had previously disclosed that 6,237 admissions of patients into nursing homes directly from hospitals.
Responding to a Freedom of Information request from the AP, the state department disclosed an additional count of 2,729 “readmissions” of recovering Covid-19 patients who were sent back to the nursing home where they had been residing before.
5,778. That’s the number of previously unreported nursing home deaths in New York state that were added to the tally pushing the total nursing home resident deaths in the state up from 8,500 to nearly 15,000.
The new data shows that the impact of the virus on the residents of nursing homes and long term care facilities— who are at increased risk of death from Covid-19—has been significantly higher in New York than previously reported. The Cuomo administration has noted that the newly added nursing home deaths doesn’t change the overall Covid-19 death toll. The state had previously omitted residents who were sent to hospitals before dying there from nursing home toll, a practice not followed by any other state. The disclosure came after New York Attorney General Letitia James published the results of an investigation last month which found that the state may have undercounted nursing home deaths by as much as 50%. In March last year, Cuomo had issued a directive that barred nursing homes from accepting residents just because they had Covid-19. The state, at the time, had argued that the directive intended to reduce the burden on hospitals which were about to be overrun early during the pandemic. Cuomo reversed the directive in May, barring nursing homes from accepting COVID-19 patients without a negative test first.
On Thursday, the New York Post reported that Melissa DeRosa, secretary to the governor, privately apologized to Democratic lawmakers for withholding the nursing home data. DeRosa reportedly said “we froze” out of fear the true numbers would “be used against us” by federal prosecutors.
Over 9,000 virus patients sent into NY nursing homes (Associated Press)