Brewing scandal? NY’s true nursing home death toll cloaked in secrecy

Cuomo has refused calls for an independent inquiry.

By World Israel News Staff and AP

It was a controversial decision at the time.

In March, Democratic New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo ordered nursing homes to accept coronavirus patients. The goal was to free up hospital beds. Families of loved ones in those homes worried about the consequences. Their fears were proven correct.

Over 6,400 patients have died in New York’s nursing homes and long-term care facilities. But that doesn’t tell the whole story.

New York’s Dept. of Health is likely undercounting that number after it decided to include only those who died in the nursing homes and not those who were transported to hospitals and died there. If hospital deaths were included, the number would rise by another 1,600 at least.

Given what is known about the disease now, to move coronavirus patients to elder-care facilities seems like madness.

Fox News Meteorologist Janice Dean, whose in-laws died of coronavirus in nursing homes (one of them wasn’t counted as a nursing-home victim due to the health department’s decision), said there were many other places where they could have put the coronavirus patients.

However, Cuomo has so far avoided any political fallout for his decision. “He’s never taken any responsibility at all. He continues to blame everyone, including Fox News,” Dean said in an emotional interview on Tuesday. She noted that Cuomo has even blamed the “people who died in nursing homes.”

Nearly every time Cuomo is questioned about New York’s nursing home death toll, he brushes off criticism as politically motivated and notes that his state’s percentage of nursing home deaths out of its overall COVID-19 death toll is around 20 percent, far less than Pennsylvania’s 68 percent, Massachusetts’ 64 percent and New Jersey’s 44 percent.

Boston University geriatrics expert Thomas Perls said it doesn’t make sense that nursing home resident deaths as a percentage of total deaths in many nearby states are more than triple what was reported in New York.

“Whatever the cause, there is no way New York could be truly at 20 percent,” Perls said.

Dr. Michael Wasserman, president of the California Association of Long Term Care Medicine, said it is unethical of New York to not break out the deaths of nursing home residents at hospitals. “From an epidemiological and scientific perspective, there is absolutely no reason not to count them.”

Another group of numbers also suggests an undercount.

State health department surveys show 21,000 nursing home beds are lying empty this year, 13,000 more than expected — an increase of almost double the official state nursing home death tally. While some of that increase can be attributed to fewer new admissions and people pulling their loved ones out, it suggests that many others who aren’t there anymore died.

Cuomo reversed the order under pressure in early May. And his health department later released an internal report that concluded asymptomatic nursing home staffers were the real spreaders of the virus, not the 6,300 recovering patients released from hospitals into nursing homes.

But epidemiologists and academics derided the study for a flawed methodology that sidestepped key questions and relied on selective stats, including the state’s official death toll figures.

Cuomo has refused calls for an independent inquiry.