New York COVID Stats May Be Way Off on Nursing Homes

State attorney general Letitia James says death toll might be undercounted by more than 50%
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Jan 28, 2021 1:34 PM CST
Nursing Home COVID Deaths in NY May Be Undercounted
New York State Attorney General Letitia James.   (AP Photo/Kathy Willens, File)

New York may have undercounted COVID-19 deaths of nursing home residents by as much as 50%, the state’s attorney general said Thursday, per the AP. Attorney General Letitia James has, for months, been examining discrepancies between the number of deaths being reported by the state's Department of Health, and the number of deaths reported by the homes themselves. Her investigators looked at a sample of 62 of the state’s roughly 600 nursing homes. They reported 1,914 deaths of residents from COVID-19, while the state Department of Health logged only 1,229 deaths at those same facilities. If that same pattern exists statewide, James' report said, it would mean the state is underreporting deaths by nearly 56%.

Part of the gap is explained by a decision by New York's health agency to exclude from its count the number of nursing home patients who die after being transferred to hospitals. Hospital and nursing home officials say the state has ready access to that figure. Health Commissioner Howard Zucker has said at times that the state is working on compiling that data. His department has not responded to repeated requests by the Associated Press for that figure in recent weeks. As of Tuesday, the state was reporting 8,711 deaths in nursing homes statewide. James' report mirrors findings by others who have scrutinized New York's statistics on nursing home deaths. James said a lack of infection controls at nursing homes put residents at increased risk of harm, while nursing homes that had lower federal scores for staffing had higher COVID fatality rates.

(Read more nursing homes stories.)

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