ALBANY — The state’s nursing home COVID death toll is now 14,100 and counting.
The revised number Wednesday came not from a surge of new deaths but from a new disclosure ordered last week by a judge.
Two weeks ago, the state Attorney General’s Office released a damning report on nursing home performance during the pandemic that also noted that state regulators had undercounted the deaths of residents by as much as 50 percent. The state Department of Health later that day revised the publicly reported death toll from 8,737 to 12,743.
One week ago, a judge ordered the DOH to release by Wednesday full statistical data on every resident death to the Empire Center for Public Policy, an Albany think tank that sued DOH after it stalled a request for the data under the state Freedom of Information Law. Late Wednesday, the state gave the Empire Center a spreadsheet indicating 14,100 deaths.
That’s a 61% increase from two weeks ago, even more than the Attorney General’s Office projected.
Bill Hammond, the Empire Center senior fellow who has been pursuing the information, noted in a news release Wednesday evening that the full death toll still isn’t known.
The state released the numbers of nursing home residents who died in their facilities of confirmed or presumed COVID causes, and it released the number confirmed to have died at hospitals or other off-site locations due to COVID — but not the number presumed to have died off-site.
In its response to Hammond, DOH said it was still investigating 330 presumed off-site deaths; there were 60 deaths that DOH believes to be not COVID-related and 281 deaths whose cause cannot be verified.
Hammond said he will continue to pursue that last statistic.
“Between last week’s court order and tonight’s formal response, the department posted new death totals for each facility, including hospital deaths that had previously been omitted,” he said in a news release. “Those revelations increased the known death toll from about 9,000 to almost 15,000 — making clear that the pandemic’s toll on long-term care residents was much worse than the Cuomo administration previously portrayed it to be.”
Hammond framed it as a hard-fought victory for government transparency.
“This six-month fight should not have been necessary,” he said. “The department should have been disclosing these numbers all along, and certainly should have provided them upon request — not just from Empire Center, but from legislators, reporters and members of the public.
“We are in the process of analyzing the data provided and will share our findings in the days and weeks ahead.”
State Health Commissioner Dr. Howard Zucker has said the DOH was withholding the information because it was based on a mountain of raw data that needed to be analyzed.
He said nursing home residents deaths were not undercounted, as the Attorney General’s Office asserted, but simply not all reported as nursing home deaths.
THE DEATH TOLL
The numbers DOH released Wednesday offer the following statistical data:
- 14,100 confirmed and presumed nursing home resident COVID deaths statewide (which is 39% of the state’s total death toll, 36,619)
- 135 such deaths in Albany County
- 59 in Columbia County
- 47 in Greene County
- 46 in Fulton County
- 60 in Montgomery County
- 73 in Rensselaer County
- 62 in Saratoga County
- 50 in Schenectady County
- 48 in Warren County
- 34 in Washington County
- As a percentage of total county population, Montgomery County was particularly hard-hit and Saratoga County fared relatively well.
- The first presumed nursing home death in New York was March 3 in a Long Island facility.
- One of the most recent deaths was Tuesday at the Wesley Health Care Center in Saratoga Springs.
- Hardest-hit facilities in the Capital Region and eastern Mohawk Valley were Fulton Center for Rehabilitation and Nursing in Gloversville, 40 deaths; Wesley, 34; Glens Falls Center for Rehabilitation and Nursing, 32; Teresian House in Albany, 28; and Green Meadows in Catskill, 26.