DOJ expands probe of NY nursing home deaths

by WorldTribune Staff, October 29, 2020

The Department of Justice said it is expanding its investigation of coronavirus nursing home deaths in New York after receiving data that it said indicates a significant undercount of deaths at publicly run nursing homes in the state.

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo / C-SPAN

The DOJ’s civil division on Tuesday requested state officials provide data on deaths linked to New York’s nursing homes.

New York records provided in response to an August DOJ inquiry indicated that a quarter of deaths in the state’s roughly two dozen public nursing homes weren’t disclosed to federal health officials, Trump administration sources said.

The New York Health Department publicly reports about 6,720 deaths from covid in nursing homes and adult-care facilities. “But the true scope of New York’s tragic toll in nursing homes is expected to be much higher,” the New York Post reported on Oct. 27.

An Associated Press analysis in August found 11,000 New York nursing home residents may have died from coronavirus.

Democrat Gov. Andrew Cuomo has angrily denied accusations that his March 25 order directing nursing homes not to turn away coronavirus-positive patients contributed significantly to New York’s 33,000 virus deaths.

“Cuomo’s detractors see blood on his hands as he embarks on a self-congratulatory book tour crediting himself with a successful pandemic response and faulting President Trump,” the New York Post noted.

The Justice Department’s civil division is seeking the New York data on private homes under its authority to police against “grossly substandard care” for Medicare and Medicaid recipients, Assistant Attorney General Jeffrey Bossert Clark wrote in a letter to the New York State Department of Health.

There are two possible reasons for the New York death undercount at public homes, officials said.

One explanation is that some residents died in hospitals and weren’t reported to the CDC. Another is that the federal Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services mandated that nursing home deaths be reported as of May, but made retroactive reporting optional, obscuring the true scale of the devastation.

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