Attorney General Letitia James released a 76-page report revealing that nursing home deaths in New York were misrepresented. The report states that the death count could be off by 50% because the state only counted those who died on facility grounds and not those who died at the hospital. According to the Associated Press, 12,743 long-term care residents died, significantly more than the official tally of 8,505.
“While we cannot bring back the individuals we lost to this crisis, the report seeks to offer transparency that the public deserves,” James said.
The report could compromise Governor Andrew Cuomo’s reputation because families that lost loved ones believe that the numbers were manipulated to advance the governor’s image as a pandemic knight. Vivian Zayas’s mother died from COVID-19 at a nursing home. Zayas says she knew the numbers were incorrect.
“It’s important to me that my mom was counted,” Zayas said. “Families like mine knew these numbers were not correct.”
For months, James has been investigating the number of deaths reported by the Department of Health and by the homes themselves. Investigators researched 62 nursing homes and found that New York’s Department of Health tallied fewer deaths than the nursing homes reported. Senator Gustavo Rivera says he is unsurprised by the report.
“Families who lost loved ones deserve honest answers,” Rivera said. “For their sake, I hope that this report will help us unveil the truth and put policies in place to prevent such tragedies in the future.”
In the past, Governor Cuomo has used New York’s low nursing home deaths to argue that the state is doing better than others.
“There’s also no doubt that we’re in this hyper-political environment, so everybody wants to point fingers,” Cuomo said on CBS “This Morning” in October. “New York, actually, we’re number 46 out of 50 in terms of percentage of deaths in nursing homes… it’s not a predominantly New York problem.”
“As the pandemic and our investigations continue,” James wrote, “it is imperative that we understand why the residents of nursing homes in New York unnecessarily suffered at such an alarming rate.”
According to James’ report, the March 25 policy that sought to release recovered COVID-19 patients into nursing homes to create more space in hospitals was a major factor in outbreaks in nursing homes. The report states that 4,000 nursing home residents with COVID-19 died after the policy was implemented. The report also states that further research would be needed to connect the policy and the deaths after the policy was reversed in May.