A report released last month by the Empire Center for Public Policy undermines claims by the New York State Department of Health that Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s (D-NY) controversial March 25 order requiring nursing homes in the state to admit coronavirus-positive residents had no impact on nursing home coronavirus death rates.
In that report, titled, “COVID-positive Admissions Were Correlated with Higher Death Rates in New York Nursing Homes,” the Albany, New York, based think tank concluded, “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.”
Cuomo’s controversial March 25, 2020, guidance was in effect until May 10, 2020.
“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,” (emphasis added) the Empire Center study found .
Cuomo’s policy was particularly damaging in upstate New York nursing homes, the study noted:
The effect [of Cuomo’s March 25, 2020 guidance] 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.
“I do think that this policy [implemented on March 25, 2020 by the Cuomo administration] made things worse. It was a bad situation to begin with. It was going to take an awful lot of lives regardless,” Bill Hammond, co-author of the report and a Senior Fellow for Health Policy at the Empire Center for Public Policy told Breitbart News in an exclusive interview on Wednesday.
“It sure seems to be politically motivated,” Hammond said of Gov. Cuomo’s efforts to withhold nursing home COVID-19 death data, an effort that was stymied on January 28 when New York Attorney General Letitia James dropped a bombshell report “which found Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s administration had ‘undercounted’ the number of coronavirus-related deaths in nursing homes by as much as 50 percent.”
Then in February, a judge ordered the New York State Department of Health to release nursing home data requested by the Empire Center for Public Policy in a Freedom of Information Act request.
“He’s defensive on this. He’s said a number of misleading things about the nature of the policy. He’s pretty egregiously misstated the data,” Hammond said of Cuomo’s responses.
Kaiser Health News, (KHN), the news arm of the Kaiser Family Foundation reported on Tuesday that Gov. Cuomo’s claims about the effects of his March 25, 2020 guidance have been highly misleading:
Cuomo frequently touts how well New York stacks up against other states in preventing nursing home covid deaths. In September, he said New York ranked 46th out of 50 states, a claim we examined and found to be Mostly False. A key problem is that until recently the New York totals didn’t include deaths of nursing home residents that occurred in hospitals.
State comparisons are tricky. But most other states, perhaps all of them, do include hospital deaths in their covid nursing home totals, said Priya Chidambaram, a senior policy analyst at KFF, the Kaiser Family Foundation. (KHN is an editorially independent program of the foundation.)
“New York’s decision to pull out the hospital-based deaths was not based on standard practice,” she said, noting that federal rules for reporting covid nursing home deaths require that states include off-site deaths in hospitals.
“That number was low as it was because they were not reporting the full count,” Hammond said of Cuomo’s September claim that KHN rated “mostly false.”
“It was pretty disingenuous. It undermined his credibility. They still have not backed off on their claim that New York State did a wonderful job handling COVID-19 deaths in nursing homes. The other explanations they’ve given about why they withheld data make no sense,” he added.
Hammond also addressed the explosive admission by Melissa DeRosa, Secretary to Gov. Cuomo, made to Democratic lawmakers in early February, that the Cuomo administration withheld nursing home data to avoid scrutiny from the U.S. Department of Justice.
“The DeRosa explanation, I think it was a strategy to convince the Democratic state legislators on the call not to make more of a fuss,” Hammond concluded.
As a consequence of these revelations, public opinion appears to be turning against Cuomo’s credibility on this issue, as the Hill reported Monday:
More than seven in 10 voters say New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) was aware of the true number of COVID-19 deaths in nursing homes and concealed the figures, according to a new Hill-HarrisX poll.
Seventy-one percent of registered voters in the Feb. 24-26 survey said Cuomo was aware of how many residents had died in the state’s nursing homes during the pandemic but concealed the accurate figures. Twenty-nine percent said they didn’t think he was aware of the discrepancy.
The survey results follow allegations that Cuomo’s administration purposely reported a lower number of nursing home deaths. The accusations are now the subject of an investigation by the FBI and U.S. attorney in Brooklyn.
The governors of New York, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania are under fire for controversial nursing home policy decisions that critics say fueled coronavirus deaths in those facilities.
On March 25, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) ordered nursing homes to accept patients who tested positive for COVID-19, as the New York Post reported:
An executive at the unnamed Queens nursing home says that the facility was coronavirus-free until Gov. Andrew Cuomo forced facilities in the state to accept coronavirus patients on March 25. . .
Though not all 50 states are currently providing complete data, a huge percentage of the 83,231 COVID-19 deaths in the United States, as of 5 p.m. eastern on Tuesday, May 12, were among residents of nursing homes and long-term care facilities.
The Henry J. Kaiser Foundation has assembled nursing home/long-term care facility COVID-19 mortality data from the 33 states that report that data, and calculates that, as of May 7, nursing home and long term care facility residents accounted for 38 percent of the COVID-19 deaths in those states. The percentage of coronavirus deaths from nursing homes appears to be increasing as the pandemic drags on.
The Kaiser Family Foundation currently reports as of March 3 that 35 percent, or 171,813, of the estimated 515,899 deaths from COVID-19 since the pandemic began are from residents of long term care (LTC) facilities.