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Deaths of the NY care home virus were undercounted

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New York may have undercounted COVID-19 deaths by as many as 50 percent of nursing home patients, said the state’s attorney general in a study issued Thursday.

For months, Attorney General Letitia James has investigated differences in the number of deaths reported by the Department of Health of the state and the number of deaths reported by the homes themselves.

Her inspectors looked at a study of 62 of the 600 or so nursing homes in the county. They reported 1,914 COVID-19 resident deaths, although just 1,229 deaths were reported by the State Department of Health at those same facilities.

If the same trend occurs nationally, James’ study said, that would mean that about 56 percent of the state is underreporting deaths.

A decision by the New York health agency to remove the number of nursing home residents who die after being moved to hospitals from the count illustrates part of the difference. Officials from hospitals and nursing homes say the state has ready access to the number.

At times, Health Commissioner Howard Zucker has confirmed that the state is working to collect the detail. In recent weeks, his agency has not responded to repeated demands for the number by The Associated Press.

The state recorded 8,711 deaths in nursing homes nationwide as of Tuesday.

The study by James, identified as provisional by her office, represents reports from those who have scrutinised New York’s nursing home mortality figures.

An Associated Press study released in August found that, based on inconsistencies between the totals and statistics being submitted to federal authorities, the state could understate deaths by as many as 65 percent. Like James’s study, the research was focused on just a slice of results, rather than a detailed look at all homes in the state.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo vowed to make a “special” effort early last spring to secure nursing homes. Last year, he charged James with reviewing how nursing homes last year met with COVID-19 guidance.

James said her study showed that a lack of infectious controls in nursing homes had placed patients at increased risk of damage, while higher COVID-19 fatality rates were found in nursing homes that had lower federal staffing ratings.

“As the pandemic and our investigations continue, it is imperative that we understand why nursing home residents in New York have suffered unnecessarily at such an alarming rate,” Attorney General James stated. “While we are unable to bring back the people we lost in this crisis, this report seeks to provide the public with the transparency it deserves and to encourage increased action to protect our most vulnerable residents.”

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Mahesh is leading digital marketing initiatives at RecentlyHeard, a NewsFeed platform that covers news from all sectors. He develops, manages, and executes digital strategies to increase online visibility, better reach target audiences, and create engaging experience across channels. With 7+ years of experience, He is skilled in search engine optimization, content marketing, social media marketing, and advertising, and analytics.

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