New York state reported Tuesday that it failed to disclose 1,700 COVID-19 deaths that happened at nursing homes and other facilities providing long-term care to adults, calling further into question how the state is handling the coronavirus pandemic as it applies to some of the state’s most vulnerable populations.
Just last week, NBC News and other outlets reported that New York was mandating nursing care facilities accept patients who tested positive for the novel coronavirus, which causes COVID-19. As a result, nursing homes across the state reported major outbreaks and, in some cases, dozens of deaths.
“Three states hit hard by the pandemic — New York, New Jersey and California — have ordered nursing homes and other long-term care facilities to accept coronavirus patients discharged from hospitals,” NBC News reported. “The policy, intended to help clear in-demand hospital beds for sicker patients, has prompted sharp criticism from the nursing home industry, staff members and concerned families, as well as some leading public health experts.”
Nursing home residents have been some of the hardest hit by the coronavirus. In some states, like Illinois, nearly half of all coronavirus-related deaths have occurred in long-term care facilities that cater only to adults. In New York, according to a report compiled by National Public Radio last month, a shocking 58% of all COVID-19 deaths occurred in nursing homes, and primarily in nursing homes that served patients of color.
Nationally, NPR reports, one in five people who die from COVID-19 is a nursing home resident.
“Nursing homes are working so hard to keep the virus out, and now we’re going to be introducing new COVID-positive patients?” one shocked expert asked NBC News, adding that only a small minority of nursing facilities are equipped to quarantine coronavirus patients. “The existing places that can really do this safely in terms of staffing and building space to keep them separate are in the minority.”
Nurses, who serve patients in New York nursing homes called the policy a death penalty for residents, but New York’s governor Andrew Cuomo criticized nursing homes opposed to the policy, not the policy itself.
“They don’t have a right to object. That is the rule and that is the regulation, and they have to comply with that,” Cuomo said in a news conference late last week. “If they can’t do it, we’ll put them in a facility that can do it.”
Now, it seems, as new evidence of additional nursing home deaths come to light, the state may have to finally answer for the policy.
“At least 4,813 people have died from COVID-19 in the state’s nursing homes since March 1, according to a tally released by Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s administration late Monday that, for the first time, includes people believed to have been killed by the coronavirus before their diagnoses could be confirmed by a lab test, New York’s local ABC affiliate said Tuesday, noting that the number was nearly 1,700 more than the state has previously reported.
“Exactly how many nursing home residents have died remains uncertain despite the state’s latest disclosure, as the list doesn’t nursing home residents who were transferred to hospitals before dying,” the outlet continued. “The revised list shows that 22 nursing homes, largely in New York City and Long Island, have reported at least 40 deaths.”
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