NY tops California in COVID nursing home deaths after Cuomo scandal
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New York has surpassed more populous California as the state with the highest tally of nursing home residents killed by the coronavirus — after Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s health department was forced to release an accurate tally, according to an analysis released Friday.
New York’s 12,743 nursing home resident deaths now exceeds California’s fatalities by about 2,600, the review by the Empire Center for Public Policy’s Bill Hammond found.
California has about 40 million residents, or twice New York State’s population.
New York Attorney General Letitia James issued an investigative report last week that found that the Cuomo administration misled the public by undercounting by 50 percent the number of nursing home residents killed by COVID-19. The state’s death tally only counted nursing home residents who died in those facilities but not those who fell ill and died in hospitals.
Hours later, embattled state Health Commissioner Howard Zucker released a more accurate figure that included nursing home residents who died in hospitals, which was about 4,000 more fatalities.
The higher nursing home resident death total raised New York’s COVID-19 mortality rate in nursing homes from 35th to 13th highest in the U.S., Hammond’s study said.
That figure compares COVID-19 nursing home resident deaths to the overall number of residents in New York’s 611 nursing homes pre-pandemic.
“The new total of almost 13,000 deaths amounts to 14 percent of New York’s pre-pandemic nursing home population, which is 2 points above the national average,” Hammond said.
“The department’s unusual methodology, though not a secret, made it impossible to properly compare New York’s nursing homes to those of other states. With the new, more complete total, it’s now clear that New York’s homes were hit harder than most,” Hammond said.
The higher, more accurate figures also dropped New York’s rating for a benchmark frequently cited by the governor — deaths in nursing homes as a percentage of all COVID-19 deaths in the state.
The higher death toll raised the nursing homes’ percentage of all COVID-19 deaths in New York from 21 percent to 33 percent, and its ranking among states from 48th to 33rd.
“New York remains below the national average of 36 percent—primarily because its overall death rate was unusually high,” Hammond said.
A state judge this week also ruled Cuomo’s health department broke the law by refusing to provide the Empire Center watchdog group with the total nursing home resident death toll from COVID-19.
Health Department spokesman Gary Holmes responded, “As Dr. Zucker said in his statement last week, nationally, the Kaiser Family Foundation lists more than 146,000 nursing home fatalities, 35% of the total fatalities reported by the CDC in the United States to date.
“While every death caused by this terrible disease is tragic, New York State’s fatality numbers rank well below the national average and behind other states including Pennsylvania with49% of their total deaths, Florida with 35% of their total deaths, Massachusetts with 56% of their total deaths and New Jersey with 36% of their total deaths. This is still an ongoing crisis and we will continue deploying every resource possible to ensuring the health and safety of our most vulnerable New Yorkers.”
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