Undercounted New York Nursing Home Deaths Revive Debate on Controversial Andrew Cuomo Order

January 29, 2021

New York Attorney General Letitia James said in a report released Thursday that it was likely state health officials undercounted COVID-19 nursing home deaths by as much as 50 percent, bringing a controversial decision Governor Andrew Cuomo made last spring back into the spotlight.

Later Thursday, the New York State Department of Health (DOH) criticized the report's classification of "undercounted" COVID-19 deaths in nursing homes, arguing that the use of the term was a misrepresentation of the state's presentation of COVID-19 fatalities.

State health officials reported more than 8,700 total COVID-19 deaths among nursing home residents as of Thursday, according to the COVID-19 Tracking Project.

As the raging coronavirus pandemic threatened hospital capacity in New York state last March, Cuomo announced a policy allowing nursing homes to bring in patients who had tested positive for the coronavirus or were suspected to be infected.


"No resident shall be denied re-admission or admission to the [nursing home] solely based on a confirmed or suspected diagnosis of COVID-19," the policy said.

While those responsible for discharging patients in hospitals were required to confirm that any new nursing home patient was "medically stable for discharge" before the person was transferred out of the hospital, the policy said nursing homes "are prohibited from requiring a hospitalized resident who is determined medically stable to be tested for COVID-19 prior to admission or readmission."