Newly-released state data Saturday offered a window into the devastating toll the COVID-19 pandemic has wrought on nursing homes and assisted-living facilities across the state.
More than three dozen residents of a Fulton County nursing home died from COVID-19; one Montgomery County facility lost 19 residents to the pandemic, another lost 17 residents, a third lost 9 residents; and over 30 residents of a Saratoga County facility died during the pandemic, according to the state data.
The data, included in a report posted to the state Department of Health website Saturday, comes after a state court recently ordered Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s administration to release the information as part of a freedom of information request by the Empire Center, a government accountability organization.
The new data includes the number of nursing home residents who died from COVID-19 at the facility and the number who died out of the facility, mostly at hospitals, for individual facilities across the state.
Summary data reports that in Schenectady County 21 nursing home residents died at their nursing home, while another seven died outside of their facility; 33 Saratoga County nursing home residents died at their facility, while another six died outside the facility and another six people died at an assisted-living facility. Montgomery County reported 50 nursing home deaths and another 10 nursing home residents who died outside of the facility.
Cuomo and top state health officials have faced stiff criticism for months about how they handled nursing homes throughout the pandemic, culminating with a recent report from Attorney General Letitia James that concluded state health officials did not fully account for all nursing home-related deaths.
For dozens of nursing home facilities across the state, the new state data outlines the number of COVID-related deaths in the facility and of residents who died outside the facility, illuminating the heavy toll borne by nursing homes and the residents who rely on them during the pandemic. Some nursing homes in the Capital Region saw dozens of residents killed by the pandemic.
The Fulton Center for Rehabilitation and Healthcare in Gloversville, which emerged as an epicenter of the disease in the rural county in May and again last month, reported 16 resident deaths at the nursing home and another 21 resident deaths outside the facility, according to the state data.
Nursing home facilities in Montgomery County were also hard hit: the Wilkinson Residential Health Care Facility in Amsterdam reported 15 residents who died at the nursing home and another four who died outside the facility. The River Ridge Living Center in Amsterdam reported 14 resident deaths at the facility and another three outside the facility.
The Wesley Health Care Center in Saratoga Springs was among the hardest hit nursing homes in the region since the pandemic started, reporting 29 deaths at the nursing home and another four outside the facility.
The new state data, which was published one year since the first COVID-19 death in the United States was reported, only partially filled the request of the Empire Center and was released in PDF form, making it harder to analyze the data in a comprehensive manner.
“The details released Saturday represent a tiny fraction of what the Empire Center requested,” Bill Hammond of the Empire Center wrote in a brief summary of the state’s data release on Saturday, noting the organization requested the daily count of nursing home deaths from throughout the pandemic.
Overall, the new data showed a total of 13,163 nursing home residents across the state have died during the pandemic, with just over 4,000 of those deaths, or about 30 percent, occurring outside of the nursing home facilities. (When state officials communicated earlier death tolls in nursing homes, they did not include the deaths of residents that occurred outside the facility.)
While the nursing home deaths serve as a tragic reminder of the devastating impact of the last year, the latest test positivity rates across the state and Capital Region continue to show infections ebbing slightly.
The seven-day positivity rates in both Schenectady and Saratoga counties reached 3.5 percent Saturday, continuing a gradual decline over the past month. Montgomery County’s latest seven-day positivity rate fell to 6.6 percent on Saturday, down from 8.2 percent about a week earlier.