NY State Releases Updated Data on Nursing Home COVID-Related Deaths

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By Emily Drooby

New York controversy continues over the number of COVID deaths in New York nursing homes.

State officials released new totals this weekend, upping the death toll at adult-care facilities by more than 1,500.

 The information is part of an ongoing battle between the state, a government watchdog group, and some lawmakers.

An additional 1,516 COVID deaths have been added onto the count for New York state adult-care facilities, raising the state’s death tally at elderly care facilities – which includes nursing homes – to about 15,000. 

But, the numbers of deaths aren’t new – they were just attributed to hospitals before.

The new totals released this weekend coming from a battle for transparency started by a think tank on behalf of family members demanding more accurate accounting. 

Over the summer, there was talk that the number of nursing home deaths attributed to COVID-19 could be much higher than the state was reporting. That’s because people in elderly care facilities who died in hospitals were not being counted.

In August, The Empire Center For Public Policy decided to look into the claims and submitted a freedom of information law request, or foil, to the state for more numbers. 

 A foil is basically a request for data that the government has to answer except in rare cases, such as classified defense information. Anyone can file one. 

After seeing long delays in their requested information, Empire Center filed a lawsuit along with state senator Jim Tedisco. 

Still the state continued to delay – setting a release date for the end of March.  

“Reporting the number of deaths is always the hardest number to put out there, and we wanted to make sure those numbers were accurate,” State Health Commissioner Howard Zucker has said.

Some of the requested information was released after a scathing report by the state’s attorney general. 

However, the foil hasn’t been entirely fulfilled according to the center. They are still waiting for a breakdown of daily deaths, hoping to use this information to take a deeper look at the impact of a highly criticized early-pandemic decision by the Cuomo administration to force nursing homes to accept COVID positive patients.

“Numerous mistakes made, and bad policy decisions made that directly resulted in the deaths of thousands of New Yorkers who didn’t have to die,” New York City Councilman Eric Ulrich told Currents News Feb. 2, “and then the governor tried to cover that up.”