The coronavirus death toll in New York nursing homes may be much higher than the figures officially tallied by the state health department, according to a new report by WGRZ.
Whereas the state counts 6,349 nursing confirmed and presumed nursing home deaths in New York nursing homes, analyst Bill Hammond of the Empire Center “thinks there is reason to believe the death toll is higher.” According to Hammond, the state’s tally is “dubious,” and his research shows a sharp increase in nursing home bed vacancies. “After hovering around 8 percent” for a period of about two years, the rate “shot up over 20 percent” in April and May 2020, as the coronavirus pandemic raged throughout the state.
Hammond told WGRZ that this data indicates “a decline of about 13,000 residents,” or about 7,000 unaccounted for by the state health department’s official count of 6,349. Part of this decline can be attributed to fewer new admissions to nursing homes once it became public knowledge that many “were struggling with virus containment,” according to Hammond. When asked to estimate what a more accurate nursing home fatality count might be, he told WGRZ: “It looks like 40 percent of the nursing home patients who died are dying in hospitals. If you extrapolate from that the actual count of nursing home deaths would get that much bigger. My ballpark would be in the neighborhood of 10,000.”
New York Congressman Lee Zeldin wrote in a July 1, 2020 op-ed that state authorities “shifting and vague guidance” to nursing homes throughout the coronavirus outbreak contributed to the high death counts in the state. He notes that the state at one point required facilities to admit patients diagnosed with coronavirus, and in some instances did not allow nursing homes to test patients discharged by hospitals, which Zeldin says amounted to “knowingly putting infected patients into an environment with healthy patients that are the most at risk to the virus.” In light of this, he called for federal scrutiny of New York’s response to the coronavirus, as well as information from federal health regulators about their oversight of long-term care facilities during the coronavirus pandemic.
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