New York officials on Thursday confirmed they omitted nursing home resident death data from a report on COVID-19 last year.
The figures withheld from the report were of deaths among residents who were transferred to hospitals.
On Thursday, Beth Garvey, a senior adviser to Democrat Gov. Andrew Cuomo, said the withholding was done because the state Department of Health “could not confirm it had been adequately verified.”
“This did not change the conclusion of the report, which was and is that the March 25 order was ‘not a driver of nursing home infections or fatalities,’” she added.
In another statement released by Cuomo’s office, New York Department of Health spokesman Gary Holmes said that the report established the March 2020 memo “was not a driver of nursing home deaths.”
“The report’s purpose was to ensure the public had a clear non-political evaluation for how COVID entered nursing homes at the height of the pandemic. All data sets reviewed came to a common conclusion—that spread from staff was likely the primary driver that introduced COVID into these nursing homes. While early versions of the report included out of facility deaths, the COVID task force was not satisfied that the data had been verified against hospital data and so the final report used only data for in facility deaths, which was disclosed in the report. While the out of facility deaths were held aside for verification, the conclusions were supported by both data sets,” he wrote.
“The decision was made to initially release the report without the out of facility data and to later update the report to include the out of facility deaths. This was done in February.”
Citing people with knowledge of the report’s production, who were not named, the article said the initial version of the report did include the number of deaths of nursing home residents outside of nursing homes.
The article drew criticism from state lawmakers, including Assemblyman Ron Kim, a Democrat.
“This is criminal,” Kim wrote in a tweet. “The Gov’s top advisors pushed state health officials to strip a public report of the data showing more nursing home deaths. The changes Cuomo’s aides made to the report reveal that they had the fuller accounting of NH deaths as early as the summer of 2020.”
The March 2020 directive stated that nursing home operators couldn’t refuse to accept residents even if they tested positive for COVID-19.
“No resident shall be denied readmission or admission to a nursing home solely based on a confirmed or suspected diagnosis of COVID-19,” it said.
Advocacy groups criticized the order.
“This approach will introduce the highly contagious virus into more nursing homes,” Mark Parkinson, president of the American Health Care Association, and Dr. David Gifford, the group’s chief medical officer, warned days after the order was issued. “There will be more hospitalizations for nursing home residents who need ventilator care and ultimately, a higher number of deaths.”