Governor Andrew Cuomo has blamed many things for the coronavirus deaths in New York's nursing homes, from the Trump administration to the "void," but an Albany-based watchdog group has now said that it was Cuomo's policies that are likely responsible for an additional 1,000 deaths.
The report from the not-for-profit Empire Center for Public Policy, released Thursday, delves into the information supplied by the New York State Department of Health. The report states that:
"The admission of coronavirus-positive patients into New York nursing homes under March 25 guidance from the New York State Department of Health was associated with a statistically significant increase in resident deaths.
"The data show that each new admission of a COVID-positive patient correlated with .09 additional deaths, with a margin of error (MOE) of plus or minus 0.05.
"Further, admitting any number of new COVID-positive patients was associated with an average of 4.2 additional deaths per facility (MOE plus or minus 1.9).
"The effect was more pronounced upstate—possibly because the pandemic was less severe in that region at the time, so that even a single exposure would have had a larger impact on the level of risk.
"Among nursing homes outside of New York City and its suburbs, each positive admission was associated with 0.62 additional deaths (MOE plus or minus 0.17), and any number of positive admissions was associated with 9.33 additional deaths per facility (MOE plus or minus 2.6).
"Also in the upstate region, facilities that admitted at least one positive patient during this period accounted for 82 percent of coronavirus deaths among nursing home residents, even though they had only 32 percent of the residents.
"Statewide, the findings imply that COVID-positive new admissions between late March and early May, which numbered 6,327, were associated with several hundred and possibly more than 1,000 additional resident deaths.
"This analysis—based on the limited data available—sheds new light on the Cuomo administration’s much-debated March 25 guidance memo, which instructed nursing homes not to refuse the admission of coronavirus-positive patients being discharged from hospitals. The policy—inspired by concern about overcrowding of hospitals at the height of New York’s spring wave—was effectively rescinded on May 10.
"The data indicate that the March 25 memo was not the sole or primary cause of the heavy death toll in nursing homes, which stood at approximately 13,200 as of early this month. At the same time, the findings contradict a central conclusion of the Health Department's July 6 report on coronavirus in nursing homes, which said, among other things: 'Admission policies were not a significant factor in nursing home fatalities' and 'The data do not show a consistent relationship between admissions and increased mortality.'"
It was in May that Cuomo reversed the March 25 directive to return COVID-positive seniors to their long-term care homes after having been hospitalized for the illness.
Cuomo has come under fire since state Attorney General Letitia James released the findings of her investigation, showing that the Cuomo administration undercounted deaths in nursing homes by up to 50 percent.
After the report was released, a Cuomo top aide came forward to say that they were instructed to cover-up the number of deaths in nursing homes so as to avoid coming under political scrutiny and critique.
A New York State Assemblyman from Queens, Ron Kim, has been sounding the alarm about nursing home deaths since April, early in the pandemic. He was vocal about Cuomo's failures, and alleged that Cuomo called and threatened him to be silent.