New York late Monday added 1,700 additional deaths linked to COVID-19 to a list of fatalities at nursing homes in the state.
The state is the hardest hit in the nation by the CCP (Chinese Communist Party) virus, a novel coronavirus that causes the COVID-19 disease.
COVID-19 kills a percentage of patients, particularly among the elderly.
Nursing homes told the state of 3,086 deaths in the homes as of Friday. The toll rose to 4,813 deaths in the latest disclosure.
The New York State Department of Health labeled 2,274 as confirmed COVID-19 deaths.
The other deaths were listed as probable under a recent revision of reporting requirements.
Nursing Home Order
The department in late March ordered nursing home facilities to accept people even if they tested positive for COVID-19.
“No resident shall be denied re-admission or admission to a nursing home solely based on a confirmed or suspected diagnosis of COVID-19,” the order stated. The order is no longer accessible on the NY state Department of Health website, but a copy is available on the web archive (pdf).
The Society for Post-Acute and Long-Term Care Medicine called the order deeply concerning. In a resolution (pdf), the group said “admitting patients with suspected or documented COVID-19 infection represents a clear and present danger to all of the residents of a nursing home.”
State officials said Tuesday it was up to nursing homes to decide whether to accept the residents back.
“All they have to do is say no and tell the Department of Health and that person will go somewhere else,” Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo told reporters in Albany.
Cuomo said officials knew nursing homes were “the most vulnerable place” from the beginning of the pandemic. “Whatever we do, they will be a target,” he said.
“What can you do better going forward? I don’t know. We did some very harsh things here that, frankly, I wasn’t even comfortable with, but the health experts insisted,” he said, citing the policy of forbidding any visitors from entering the homes.
Most Deaths in NYC, and Long Island
The updated figures (pdf) only list people who died inside nursing homes and not those who were transferred to hospitals before dying.
The Parker Jewish Institute for Health Care and Rehabilitation in the New York City borough of Queens reported the most deaths. All 71 deaths at the 527-bed facility were confirmed, according to the list. The Isabella Geriatric Center in Manhattan reported the second-most, with 21 confirmed COVID-19 deaths and 43 believed to be linked to the disease.
Most of the deaths in nursing homes took place in the city or on Long Island, which sits just outside the Big Apple.
Officials at the Isabella Geriatric Center, which has 705 beds, said last week that it had 66 confirmed or suspected deaths happen at the facility. Another 38 residents died after being transferred to hospitals.
“Isabella, like all other nursing homes in New York City, initially had limited access to widespread and consistent in-house testing to quickly diagnose our residents and staff. Sadly, while we have always had daily health screenings of staff, this hampered our ability to identify those who were infected and asymptomatic, despite our efforts to swiftly separate anyone who presented symptoms,” the center said in a statement.
The updated figure still comprises only about 25 percent of all deaths in New York, a much lower percentage than nearby states. Pennsylvania, Massachusetts, and New Jersey have all seen over half of COVID-19-linked deaths happen in nursing homes. According to the latest death figures, 64.3 percent of all deaths in the state were among those 70 or older. The data is as of May 4.
Cuomo on Friday threatened to revoke licenses from nursing homes that didn’t accurately report COVID-19 figures.
“They submit these numbers under penalty of perjury,” Cuomo said. “You violate, you commit fraud, that is a criminal offense.”