NEW YORK (PIX11) — Findings released by the New York State Comptroller’s Office show the state was “unprepared to respond to infectious disease outbreaks at nursing homes, even before the COVID-19 pandemic hit New York.”
State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli said a “persistent lack of funding” forced the Department of Health to operate without resources that could have limited the spread of COVID-19 in care homes. DiNapoli and his auditors also found the Department of Health falsified COVID-19 death counts and “became entangled in the undercounting of those deaths as [Gov. Andrew Cuomo] took control of information provided to the public. Undercounting nursing home deaths was one of the scandals that led Cuomo to resign.
“The pandemic was devastating and deadly for New Yorkers living in nursing homes. Families have a right to know if their loved one’s COVID-19 death was counted, but many still don’t have answers from the state Department of Health,” DiNapoli said. “Our audit findings are extremely troubling. The public was misled by those at the highest level of state government through distortion and suppression of the facts when New Yorkers deserved the truth.”
The audit findings released by DiNapoli’s office show COVID-19 deaths in nursing homes were undercounted by at least 4,100, and at times were 50% lower than they should have been. Cuomo was accused of “routinely” reporting incorrect data, “inflating the perception of New York’s performance against other states.”
The New York Department of Health was also slow to respond to federal directives, according to the comptroller’s office. Just 20% of state nursing homes were surveyed between March 23 and May 30, 2020; in other states, more than 90% of similar facilities were surveyed. The Department of Health issued 602 violations on the basis of the surveys conducted, but 60% of those cases showed no indication of ever being resolved.
According to DiNapoli’s office, a lot of the Department of Health’s shortcomings were present before the COVID-19 pandemic, but it “never followed through … which may have limited its ability to respond to the COVID-19 nursing home crisis.”