COVID-19 Nursing Home Deaths in New York Severely Undercounted, Attorney General Says
A report released Thursday by New York Attorney General Letitia James discloses that the Department of Health severely undercounted the number of nursing home COVID-19 deaths.
A report released Thursday by New York Attorney General Letitia James says that the Department of Health severely undercounted the number of nursing home COVID-19 deaths.
Health Department officials made new data public hours after Thursday's report was released –– adding an additional 3,800 deaths to the count of nursing home deaths, The New York Times reported. They were not previously counted by the state as a nursing home death because the individuals died at the hospitals, as opposed to the nursing home.
This added death toll has increased the nursing home tally by more than 40%, the outlet reported. The number of COVID-19 deaths in the state has not changed, but it simply reallocated the number of deaths that originated in nursing homes.
New York State Health Commissioner Dr. Howard Zucker responded to the report saying that he takes issue with the undercount allegation, specifically citing that the COVID-19 deaths are based on the location they took place, not where the victim came from, CBS News reported.
"The word 'undercount' implies there are more total fatalities than have been reported; this is factually wrong," Zucker wrote.
Zucker continued, "The OAG suggests that all should be counted as nursing home deaths and not hospital deaths, even though they died at hospitals."
But, he contends, that "does not in any way change the total count of deaths but is instead a question of allocating the number of deaths between hospitals and nursing homes."
He reiterated that the department has made it "consistently" clear that their numbers are reported, "based on the place of death."
Zucker added that his office is on the same page as James saying that, "the number of people transferred from a nursing home to a hospital is an important data point," CBS News reported.
The DOH is currently auditing the data from nursing homes, he said in the statement.
Another component of the report asserts that nursing homes' lack of compliance with infection control protocols put residents at increased risk of harm.
The report specifically states that facilities that had lower staffing pre-pandemic had higher COVID-19 cases in their nursing homes. Because of these findings, James's office is continuing to investigate more than 20 nursing homes whose conduct during the first wave of the pandemic raised concerns, CBS reported.
In all, COVID-19 has ravished the country's nursing homes, killing over 100,000 residents and employees. There have been over 400,000 reported COVID-19 deaths in the U.S., according to recent data.
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