At the center of New York’s coronavirus disaster was Gov. Cuomo’s now infamous “March 25 advisory” issued to nursing home administrators, directors of nursing, and hospital discharge planners. The supposed logic behind the order was that it would help free up space in the hospitals for seriously ill coronavirus patients (while those less severely affected by the virus could recover in other long-term care facilities, primarily nursing homes).
In a world where the coronavirus is most dangerous to the elderly, common sense would suggest against implementing such a policy, but common sense proved no match for New York liberalism in this case (a frequent occurrence).
As ProPublica notes in their June 16th report excoriating Cuomo’s policy: “In the weeks that followed the March 25 order, COVID-19 tore through New York state’s nursing facilities, killing more than 6,000 people — about 6% of its more than 100,000 nursing home residents.” Meanwhile, the Republican County Executive of Rensselaer County rightly saw Cuomo’s advice as absurd and defied it. The only nursing home run by the county, Van Renssealaer, saw a total of zero coronavirus deaths.
And as if 6,000 nursing home deaths isn’t bad enough, the true number of deaths could be nearly twice as many.
According to the Associated Press:
New York’s coronavirus death toll in nursing homes, already among the highest in the nation, could actually be a significant undercount. Unlike every other state with major outbreaks, New York only counts residents who died on nursing home property and not those who were transported to hospitals and died there.
That statistic could add thousands to the state’s official care home death toll of just over 6,600. But so far the administration of Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo has refused to divulge the number, leading to speculation the state is manipulating the figures to make it appear it is doing a better than other states and to make a tragic situation less dire.
How big a difference could it make? Since May, federal regulators have required nursing homes to submit data on coronavirus deaths each week, whether or not residents died in the facility or at a hospital. Because the requirement came after the height of New York’s outbreak, the available data is relatively small. According to the federal data, roughly a fifth of the state’s homes reported resident deaths from early June to mid July — a tally of 323 dead, 65 percent higher than the state’s count of 195 during that time period.
Even if half that undercount had held true from the start of the pandemic, that would translate into thousands more nursing home resident deaths than the state has acknowledged.
For all 43 states that break out nursing home data, resident deaths make up 44% of total COVID deaths in their states, according to data from the Kaiser Family Foundation. Assuming the same proportion held in New York, that would translate to more than 11,000 nursing home deaths.
In the face of all this, Cuomo assures the public that there’s no need for an independent inquiry into his nursing home policy.