In fact, the coronavirus death toll in New York City in nursing homes – already one of the highest in the country – could be a significant under-figure, a new analysis finds.
Unlike any other state, the Empire State only counts residents who died on the grounds of a nursing home and not those who were taken to hospitals and died there, according to the Associated Press.
That statistic could add thousands to the official New York care home death toll of just over 6,600, but it could even be twice that.
So far, the government of Democratic government Andrew Cuomo has refused to disclose the number, leading to speculation that the state is manipulating the numbers to make it appear better than other states and to make a tragic situation less dire .
It comes as Cuomo shot down the possibility of an independent investigation into the coronavirus deaths from the state on Monday.
The New York-reported number of coronavirus deaths in nursing homes is currently 6,600, but health officials only count residents who died on the spot and not later in hospitals or other medical facilities. Pictured: EMTs transport a patient from a nursing home to an emergency bed at St Joseph’s Hospital in Yonkers, NY, April 20
An Associated Press analysis says the actual number could be anywhere from 11,000 to 13,000. Pictured: A patient is driven by EMTs in New York to Cobble Hill Health Center on April 17
On Monday, the New York government’s Andrew Cuomo (pictured) shot down the idea of an independent investigation into New York’s nursing home deaths as “ politically motivated. ”
“That’s a problem, bro,” Senator Gustavo Rivera, a Democrat, told New York City Health Commissioner Howard Zucker at a hearing on nursing homes earlier this month.
“It seems, sir, in this case you choose to define it differently so you can look better.”
A running count by The Associated Press shows that more than 68,200 residents and staff of nursing homes and long-term facilities across the country have died from the coronavirus, out of a total of more than 163,000 deaths.
According to data from the Kaiser Family Foundation, all 43 states that disclose data about nursing homes make up 44 percent of the total COVID deaths in their states.
Assuming the same proportion in New York, that would translate to more than 11,000 nursing home deaths.
So how big a difference can a change in the definition of nursing home deaths make?
Since May, federal regulators have required nursing homes to submit weekly data on deaths from the coronavirus, regardless of whether residents died in the facility or in a hospital.
Since the claim came after the height of the New York outbreak, the data available is relatively small.
According to federal data, about one-fifth of the state’s homes reported resident deaths from early June to mid-July, making it a total of 323 deaths, 65 percent higher than the state’s 195 number during that period.
Even if half of that under-figure had persisted from the start of the pandemic, that would translate to thousands more nursing home deaths than the state has acknowledged.
Riverdale Nursing Home in the Bronx, for example, appears on paper to have escaped the worst of the coronavirus pandemic, with an official count of just four deaths in the 146-bed facility.
The truth, according to the home, is much worse with an actual death toll of 21, mostly residents who were transported to hospitals before succumbing.
‘It was a gradual effect. One after another, ”clerk Emil Fuzayov recalled.
Another group of numbers also suggests a subtitle.
Research from the state health department shows that this year 21,000 beds in nursing homes will be empty, 13,000 more than expected – an increase of nearly double the official state-owned death rate.
While some of that increase can be attributed to fewer new admissions and people pulling out their loved ones, it suggests that many others who are no longer there died.
Flawed as the New York census was, Cuomo wasn’t shy about comparing it to numbers in other states.
Almost every time Cuomo is questioned about the New York nursing home death toll, he brushes off criticism as politically motivated, noting that the percentage of nursing home deaths in his state relative to the total COVID-19 death toll is about 20 percent .
He adds that it is much less than 68 percent in Pennsylvania, 64 percent in Massachusetts, or 44 percent in New Jersey.
“Look at the basic facts where New York is versus other states,” Cuomo said at a briefing Monday.
“If you look at where New York is as a percentage of nursing home deaths, it’s right at the bottom of the list.”
However, during the same call, he told reporters that he would not be conducting an independent investigation, saying that the calls for such an investigation are political attacks by Republicans.
“No, I wouldn’t investigate,” he said
‘I think you have to be blind to think it’s not political, just look where it’s coming from and look at the sources and look at their political beliefs and … see what publications are bringing it up and what media networks to increase [it]. It’s pretty incredible. ‘
Thomas Perls, an expert on geriatrics from Boston University, said it doesn’t make sense that the rate of nursing home deaths as a percentage of total deaths in many nearby states is more than three times that of New York.
“Whatever the cause, there is no way that New York is really 20 percent,” Perls said.
Nursing homes have become a particular pain point for the Cuomo administration, which has received general praise for the steps that flatten the curve of infections and the highest in-the-nation’s 32,781 deaths in New York.
But a controversial March 25 order to send recovering COVID-19 patients from hospitals to nursing homes designed to free up hospital bed space at the height of the pandemic has met with devastating criticism from family members and patient advocates who claim it was the outbreaks of nursing homes.
Cuomo reversed the order under pressure in early May. And his health department later released an internal report that concluded that asymptomatic nursing home workers were the true spreaders of the virus, not the 6,300 convalescent patients released from hospitals to nursing homes.
But epidemiologists and academics scoffed at the study for a flawed methodology that bypassed key questions and relied on selective statistics, including the state’s official death toll figures.
“We’re trying to figure out what worked and what didn’t, and that means we’re trying to find patterns,” said Bill Hammond, who works on health policy for the nonprofit think tank Empire Center.
“You can’t do that if you have the wrong data.”