By Duncan Smith
In recent days New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo and his administration have been taking a lot of heat for a health department policy implemented earlier this year requiring nursing homes in the state to accept patients infected with coronavirus.
The decision has been blasted by experts and conservative leaders as incredibly ‘short-sighted’ considering that we’ve known all along that COVID-19 is particularly deadly to older Americans.
Now, The Daily Caller reports that New York state health officials have been intentionally under-counting coronavirus deaths in nursing homes, perhaps to soften the criticism.
The news site notes:
New York has omitted an unknown number of coronavirus deaths in recent reports regarding residents of nursing home and adult care facilities, the New York State Department of Health acknowledged in a statement to the Daily Caller News Foundation.
In early May, those reports quietly began omitting long-term care residents who died of coronavirus in hospitals. Even so, New York still leads the nation with 5,433 reported deaths at nursing homes and adult care facilities as of Wednesday.
The revelation comes as New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo faces criticism for ordering nursing homes and other long-term care facilities to accept patients from hospitals who had tested positive for coronavirus. Cuomo rescinded the March 25 order, which experts say led to higher levels of death among nursing home residents, on May 11 to allow such facilities to wait until a coronavirus patient tests negative before readmitting them.
The New York Department of Health confirmed to the news site that accurate counts of coronavirus deaths in nursing homes were being taken through around April 28.
But after that, the Daily Caller says, the department made a subtle change around May 3 to its disclosures, according to Internet archives.
Now, New York’s coronavirus tracker “currently does not include out of facility deaths,” NYSDOH spokeswoman Jill Montag told the DCNF. “Deaths of nursing home and adult care facility residents that occurred at hospitals is accounted for in the overall fatality data on our COVID-19 tracker.”
In short, the change means that people who contracted COVID-19 in a nursing home but later died in a hospital aren’t counted as ‘nursing home deaths.’
Montag said that New York has opted not to disclose out of facility deaths “in order to maintain consistency and reliability in the data as presented, and to avoid any potential for double-counting.”
However, as The Daily Caller added:
But the reporting change has, in fact, resulted in inconsistencies in New York’s disclosure of long-term care coronavirus fatalities, particularly regarding deaths of residents of adult care facilities, which don’t typically don’t have the medical capacity of nursing homes or hospitals.
Of nine states that have the highest coronavirus death rates in nursing homes, New York is the only one that omits coronavirus deaths of residents who passed away in a hospital.