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New York attorney general: State severely undercounted COVID nursing home deaths

Data from New York's public health department undercounted COVID-19-related deaths in nursing homes by as much as 50%, according to a report released Thursday by state Attorney General Letitia James.

The big picture: Gov. Andrew Cuomo's administration did not include nursing home patients who died after being transferred to the hospital in its tally of over 8,500 nursing home deaths, according to the report. Data provided to the attorney general's office from 62 nursing homes "shows a significantly higher number of resident COVID-19 deaths can be identified than is reflected" in the official count.

  • The topic of nursing homes have already been a sensitive one for Cuomo, whose office has been previously criticized for not doing enough to protect this vulnerable population.
  • New York City was the first major COVID-19 hotspot when the pandemic arrived in the U.S. last spring.

The state of play: In addition to undercounting deaths, the investigation also revealed that some nursing homes failed to comply with infection control protocols.

  • Facilities with lower staffing ratings had higher COVID-19 fatality rates.
  • Insufficient PPE and testing for nursing home staff put residents and staff at increased risk.
  • Owners of for-profit nursing homes had a financial incentive to increase their own profits instead of investing in more staff, PPE and other safety measures.

What they're saying: "As the pandemic and our investigations continue, it is imperative that we understand why the residents of nursing homes in New York unnecessarily suffered at such an alarming rate," James said in a statement.

  • "While we cannot bring back the individuals we lost to this crisis, this report seeks to offer transparency that the public deserves and to spur increased action to protect our most vulnerable residents," she added.
  • Cuomo's office did not immediately respond to Axios' request for comment.

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