New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo has managed to escape accountability over his disastrous, deadly nursing home policy largely because the media have protected him. As you probably have heard, Cuomo shoved sick patients back into nursing homes via executive mandate during the height of the COVID outbreak in his area. This led to thousands upon thousands of deaths.
But until now, we’ve been told it’s only 5,000 or so. While that would still be near the top of the nation (and more than the total deaths of everyone in places like Florida), it was always a number that was quite obviously not right. When you look at total deaths in New York, which are around 32,000, there’s just noway only 5,000 of those are from long term care facilities.
Now, the Associated Press is saying the quiet part out loud, i.e. that the numbers are being purposely skewed.
Unlike every other state with major nursing home outbreaks, New York only counts resident deaths that occur in the home, not in hospitals. That could make New York's official toll, already among the nation's highest, a significant undercount. https://t.co/Krrw3OrVuZ
— The Associated Press (@AP) August 11, 2020
How big a difference could it make? Since May, federal regulators have required nursing homes to submit data on coronavirus deaths each week, whether or not residents died in the facility or at a hospital. Because the requirement came after the height of New York’s outbreak, the available data is relatively small. According to the federal data, roughly a fifth of the state’s homes reported resident deaths from early June to mid July — a tally of 323 dead, 65 percent higher than the state’s count of 195 during that time period.
Even if half that undercount had held true from the start of the pandemic, that would translate into thousands more nursing home resident deaths than the state has acknowledged.
Another group of numbers also suggests an undercount. State health department surveys show 21,000 nursing home beds are lying empty this year, 13,000 more than expected — an increase of almost double the official state nursing home death tally. While some of that increase can be attributed to fewer new admissions and people pulling their loved ones out, it suggests that many others who aren’t there anymore died.
The Associated Press also notes that Cuomo routinely misleads about the totals, comparing his state to others with a higher percentages of nursing home deaths. But as noted, those states actually count all nursing home deaths while Cuomo is under-counting by as much as 60-70%. That’s not an oversight on his part. It’s an active decision to skew the data by not counting those who end up dying in the hospital after getting infected.
Regardless, percentages don’t tell the whole story. At the end of the day, total deaths still matter, as every life holds individual value. If the real number is 12,000-14,000 nursing home deaths, that would be a horrific number even if it’s less than 50% of the total deaths in the state. All that shows is that Cuomo did a uniquely terrible job protecting the entirety of his population compared to other states.
In the end, nothing will happen to Cuomo. As he said yesterday, he doesn’t even feel the need for an independent investigation so there won’t be one. Despite this AP article, the lion’s share of the media also won’t touch this topic. CNN continues to treat Cuomo as some sort of icon. Meanwhile, the liberal majorities of his state praise him as a great leader despite the incredibly high death toll in New York. It’s twilight zone, up is down, left is right type stuff, but it appears to not be changing. If anything, Cuomo has gotten more popular over the last few months. We are hopelessly divided as a nation to the point where even objective failure is treated as a success.
(Please follow me on Twitter! @bonchieredstate)