By John Leland, NY Times, April 18 2020
Until the state released its accounting, residents’ relatives had been denied information on how hard homes had been hit.
At least 14 nursing homes in New York City and its suburbs have recorded more than 25 coronavirus-related deaths, according to new data from the state Health Department that shows the virus’s impact on individual facilities, and five had 40 or more.
The homes that have been hit hardest are the Cobble Hill Health Center, a 364-bed nonprofit facility in Brooklyn, which reported 55 deaths, and the Kings Harbor Multicare Center, a for-profit, 720-bed facility in the Bronx, which had 45.
The 10 homes with the most deaths were all in the city.
The data did not include facilities with fewer than five deaths, and it did not include residents who died in hospitals.
Until the state released its partial accounting on Friday, families with relatives in nursing homes had repeatedly been denied information, which was unavailable from official sources and often impossible to get from the homes themselves.
Complaints from family members about a lack of disclosure from homes started in mid-March, when visitors were barred from entering facilities.
New York’s nursing homes, more than those in any other state, have been devastated by the virus. As of Wednesday, 2,690 deaths had been linked to such facilities — an increase of more than 1,200 in just a week. Nearly a quarter of the virus-related deaths in the state involved nursing homes or assisted living facilities.
The newly released data, which the Health Department had said for weeks it would not provide, citing a need to protect residents’ privacy, included just 69 facilities in 13 counties, out of 613 licensed nursing homes in the state.
Asked on Thursday why officials were taking so long to release the data, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo said nursing homes were “dealing with hellacious situations” — multiple health crises, staff shortages, a lack of protective masks and gowns — that made it difficult for some to file the necessary paperwork on time. Mr. Cuomo said the state would release data on more homes as it became available.
The numbers may not measure the quality of homes’ response to the pandemic, said Dr. David Dosa, a geriatrician at Brown University who studies disaster preparedness and response.
“The perception is that nursing homes aren’t doing a good job when they have five, ten cases,” he said. “The reality might be that they’re the one where it didn’t explode to 30.”Sign up to receive an email when we publish a new story about the coronavirus outbreak.Sign Up
When the final counting is done, he said, “We’re going to find that places with staff employed in a lot of places will turn out to be the hardest hit. An aide works in three places. You maximize the risk of bringing it in.”
Responding to the release of the data, ArchCare, which is affiliated with the Archdiocese of New York and operates four nonprofit homes in New York State, called the focus on deaths misleading. Among ArchCare’s properties is the Mary Manning Walsh Home on Manhattan’s Upper East Side, which, state records show, has had 31 deaths.
“Reducing the battle against coronavirus to a simple tally of lives lost ignores multiple realities and does a tremendous disservice to the thousands of dedicated health care workers who are putting their lives on the line each day,” the agency said in a statement.
In New Jersey, the loss of life has been almost as severe. As of Friday, 1,530 nursing home residents had died of the virus, according to the health commissioner, Judith Persichilli. New Jersey has not released data for individual facilities. In Connecticut, nearly 40 percent of the virus-related fatalities have involved nursing homes, although the state’s death toll is far below New York’s and New Jersey’s.
Advocates for people in nursing homes said the data was a start but not enough, because it did not tell families whether people in homes had the virus, or how widely it had spread. Without that, said Richard Mollot, the executive director of the Long Term Care Community Coalition, “the state is essentially withholding the information necessary to make informed decisions on a personal, as well as community, level.”
An executive order issued by Governor Cuomo on Thursday required homes to inform families about coronavirus infections, though that information will not be available to the public.
That data might have been lifesaving for Ernest Afflitto, who said he was unable to get information about his cousin Dominic Garritanno, a resident of the King David Center for Nursing and Rehabilitation in Brooklyn, for the roughly 10 days before Mr. Garritanno died of the virus on April 3.
“The phone rang and rang,” Mr. Afflitto said.
Matt Stevens contributed reporting.
John Leland, a Metro reporter, joined The Times in 2000. His most recent book is “Happiness Is a Choice You Make: Lessons From a Year Among the Oldest Old,” based on a Times series. @johnleland