New York Reports 1,700 More Coronavirus Deaths at Nursing Homes

A man stands behind a Sapphire Center nursing home sign amid the outbreak of the coronavirus in the Brooklyn, N.Y., April 17, 2020. (Lucas Jackson/Reuters)

New York on Tuesday announced 1,700 previously undisclosed suspected coronavirus deaths that occurred at nursing homes and adult care facilities.

The new data from Governor Andrew Cuomo’s administration, which includes people who passed away before a lab test could confirm they had coronavirus, brings the state’s death toll from the virus to at least 4,813 since the beginning of March. That number does not include nursing home residents who were transferred to hospital before they died, causing the actual toll of the virus on nursing homes to remain fuzzy.

Several nursing homes in New York City and Long Island were hit particularly hard, with some facilities in the metro area doubling and tripling their official death tolls. Veterans homes were also hit hard, three veterans homes in Queens, Long Island, and Westchester reporting a total of 108 resident deaths.

The report comes after critics expressed skepticism about the official death tallies from coronavirus at nursing homes compared to rising death rates among the elderly residents.

“You violate, you commit fraud, that is a criminal offense, period. So they can be prosecuted criminally for fraud on any of these reporting numbers,” Governor Cuomo said Friday in remarks directed at nursing homes.

The disparity appeared to come from the inability of facilities to confirm suspected cases of coronavirus before residents passed away.

At least 98 residents of Isabella Geriatric Center in Washington Heights, Manhattan are suspected to have died of coronavirus, but the facility was reporting only 13 confirmed deaths before updating the total on Friday to 64 confirmed and suspected deaths from the virus.

“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. This hampered our ability to identify those who were infected and asymptomatic, despite our efforts to swiftly separate anyone who presented symptoms,” said Audrey Waters, a spokeswoman for Isabella.

Cuomo has faced criticism for his policies aimed at fighting the virus in nursing homes, including from former New York governor George Pataki, who called them a “disaster.”

The former governor and others criticized the lack of enough personal protective equipment for caretakers working in nursing homes as well as Cuomo’s state regulation requiring nursing homes to take in recovering coronavirus patients.

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