Assemblyman Ed Ra (R-Franklin Square) on Monday disputed a report by the state Department of Health concluding that the high rate of COVID-19-related fatalities in nursing homes had more to do with staff members bringing the disease in than the readmission of residents that had been hospitalized with the disease.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo has come under fire since he issued an order on March 25 that required nursing homes to readmit infected residents.
The 33-page report, however, states that “evidence suggests that nursing home residents were infected with COVID-19 as a result of transmission by the workforce. Based on a NYSDOH nursing home supplemental survey conducted on June 9, 2020 for the months of March, April and May, 28,510 nursing home staff were confirmed or suspected COVID-positive cases across New York State.”
Disagreeing with the report’s findings, Ra called for an independent investigation.
“Proving that staff members and visitors introduced the virus in some facilities does not prove that COVID-19 positive patients discharged from hospitals did not infect many others,” Ra said in a statement.
Ra went on to paint the findings as a partisan issue, saying that state Health Commissioner Howard Zucker has discouraged people from issuing blame but that administrators have had no problem blaming the federal government over virus control shortcomings.
“All New Yorkers deserve answers,” Ra said. “It’s about transparency and trust. We can work towards restoring it by having a truly independent, thorough investigation of what happened in our nursing homes.”
The report said there have been 6,432 deaths in nursing homes across the state, more than a quarter of total deaths.
The report said that the number of COVID-19 deaths in a nursing home correlates with the number of deaths in the region that nursing home is located in. One example given is that 80 percent of all infected nursing home staff members were from the three most impacted regions of the state: New York City, Long Island and the Hudson Valley.
It further rebuts claims that Cuomo’s policy lead to mass deaths by showing that the peak of nursing home resident deaths was on April 8, but the peak number of daily nursing home admissions was a week later on April 14, and said that this data suggests the policy was not to blame.
Furthermore, it said that neither the federal government nor the state directed nursing homes to accept a COVID-19-positive person. The order in question states that nursing homes “shall accept and retain only those nursing home residents for whom it can provide adequate care,” and that it was up to those homes’ discretion to determine if they could provide adequate care for those infected with the virus.
Approximately 6,326 novel coronavirus patients were sent from hospitals to 310 nursing homes. Of those, 252 already had a suspected or confirmed resident or employee with the virus and therefore the report said in those facilities the readmitted residents did not introduce the virus into the building.
Parker Jewish Institute for Rehabilitation and Healthcare, located on the border of Queens and New Hyde Park, had the highest number of novel coronavirus deaths of any nursing home in the state at one point, reporting 74 related deaths as of May 13.
Michael Dowling, CEO of Northwell Health, praised the report as accurate.
“This important data-based study confirms what we saw in our own facilities and around the state – that when the virus hit our local communities, it quickly spread through asymptomatic carriers into our nursing homes, hospitals, places of worship and other congregate settings,” Dowling said.
“This study highlighted a critically important fact that the overwhelming majority of hospital patients sent back into nursing homes were not only medically stable, they were no longer contagious and that 81 percent of the nursing homes receiving COVID patients from New York’s hospitals already had the virus.”