Democratic New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo has faced widespread criticism for his response to the state’s COVID-19 public health crisis over much of the past year.
Now, an investigation is asserting that his administration actually undercounted the number of deaths in nursing homes by as much as 50%.
Team investigates 1 in 10 New York facilities
According to Fox News, the report came from New York Attorney General Letitia James’ office as the result of an investigation into the controversial policies enacted by the governor.
Her investigatory team sampled 62 nursing homes across the state, roughly 10% of the state’s total.
The resulting report found that the facilities had reported 1,914 coronavirus-related deaths while the state’s Department of Health only claimed that there had been 1,229 such cases. The discrepancy appears to stem from the state not counting in its tally the deaths of nursing home residents who were transferred to a hospital before dying.
As Fox News reported, one of the nursing homes included in the audit reported a total of 11 COVID-19 deaths at one point last year while confirming a much higher 40 — including both facility and hospital deaths — to the attorney general’s office.
For some perspective, as of Jan. 27, the New York State Department of Health has reported 5,957 COVID-19 nursing home deaths and 2,783 cases in which the virus is the presumed cause of death.
James receives claims of “concerning conduct”
The attorney general’s report indicates that the actual number is likely to be much higher.
Investigators went back as far as March in digging up details about the state’s official death count. It was at that time Cuomo’s office issued a directive requiring hospitals to send convalescing coronavirus patients back to nursing home facilities.
James’ report finds that this directive likely served to exacerbate the rate of deaths in such facilities and across the elderly population most vulnerable to the virus.
After fielding allegations of neglect and other “concerning conduct” in the state’s nursing homes, James launched the probe that uncovered an apparently widespread underreporting of fatal COVID-19 cases among these individuals.
For his part, Cuomo had not directly responded to the report as of this writing. It remains to be seen whether any real reform will come as a result.