A recent report from the Attorney General of New York found that nursing homes in the state didn’t do enough to keep residents safe during the COVID-19 pandemic. The report also found that the administration of New York Governor Andrew Cuomo may have underreported the number of coronavirus deaths in nursing homes.
N.Y. Attorney General Highlights Nursing Home Coronavirus Problems
A January 2021 report from New York attorney general Letitia James revealed just how badly nursing homes in the state failed residents during the pandemic and also triggered concerns about New York Governor Andrew Cuomo.
The report suggested that facilities throughout the state may have committed nursing home neglect by not taking proper precautions early on in the pandemic. This led to many more cases — and deaths — that could have been prevented.
“It is imperative that we understand why the residents of nursing homes in New York unnecessarily suffered at such an alarming rate. While we cannot bring back the individuals we lost to this crisis, this report seeks to offer transparency that the public deserves and to spur increased action to protect our most vulnerable residents.”
– New York State Attorney General Letitia James
In addition, the report revealed that Governor Cuomo’s nursing home death tolls from the coronavirus were undercounted by as much as 50%.
This report has enraged much of the public and galvanized opposition to nursing homes and the Cuomo administration — a sharp turn considering the governor’s high approval ratings during the height of the coronavirus lockdown in the spring of 2020.
Nursing Homes and Coronavirus: Areas of Concern
The Attorney General’s report highlighted many factors that contributed to the high numbers of COVID-19 infections in nursing homes.
Top factors included:
- Admitting residents with COVID-19: Between March and mid-May of 2020, nursing homes could not turn away residents simply because they had coronavirus. They also had to readmit patients who were hospitalized due to COVID-19.
- Face mask shortages: According to the report, nursing homes may have suffered from shortages of face masks if they did not follow directives to maintain their supply. Further, some nursing homes instructed employees to reuse face masks and other protective equipment despite the risks of doing so.
- Not following infection protocols: Throughout their research, the Attorney General’s team received complaints that facilities weren’t following basic nursing home infection control measures, such as isolating infected residents or stopping the use of dining rooms.
- Problems with tests: Since there was a lack of tasks in the first months of the pandemic, nursing homes may not have tested residents who were asymptomatic or couldn’t speak. Some staff members may have also continued to work despite being exposed to COVID-19, ignoring symptoms due to test shortages.
- Staffing issues: As the pandemic ramped up, nursing homes that had issues with understaffing were stretched even thinner, limiting the number of care providers available to residents.
All of these issues played a role in why New York nursing homes suffered such high rates of COVID-19 — and none of them are excusable.
More Controversy on Cuomo Nursing Homes Data
Outside of the missteps made by facilities, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo’s nursing home data errors have also come under scrutiny.
In the wake of the Attorney General’s report, it is believed that Cuomo’s administration allegedly counted the deaths of nursing home residents who passed away in hospitals as hospital deaths — not assisted living facility-related deaths.
This move greatly downplayed the coronavirus death rate among nursing home residents, a group that’s at a high risk of COVID-19 complications and mortality. The overall death toll from coronavirus in New York state did not change.
Because of a probe from the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) and a second wave of infections in New York, the administration claimed it had no time to properly deliver the data. This response was rebuffed by several members of the New York State Assembly.
Additional Cuomo Nursing Homes Data Errors Affected Readmission Rates
Other than misreporting how many nursing home residents died, Cuomo may have also undercounted the number of recovering COVID-19 patients sent back into New York nursing homes between March and May of 2020.
In early 2021, the Associated Press found that the number of patients in New York sent back to nursing homes to recover from the coronavirus was more than 40% higher than originally stated.
This alarming statistic likely contributes to the rate of infection and deaths among New York nursing home residents — and raises more concerns about Cuomo’s nursing home data reports.
Uncertainty in New York as Nursing Homes Receive Vaccines
Governor Cuomo’s nursing homes data controversy is still unfolding, even as residents throughout the country start to get the coronavirus vaccine. Several lawmakers have called for the impeachment of Cuomo or even for his resignation. In addition, the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) has begun a study into Cuomo’s actions.
Still, this will not bring back the thousands of nursing home residents who died due to the coronavirus. Had some nursing homes done more early on, this death rate may have been lower.
The Nursing Home Abuse Justice team understands the toll that the virus has taken on so many families and hopes that the threat of the pandemic will subside.