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After sending 1000s of COVID patients into nursing homes, New York blames deaths on 'infected staff'

Published: July 8, 2020
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New York officials issue a report this week concluding that the high number of coronavirus deaths in state care facilities was the result of infected workers, not sick residents, spreading the contagion.

New York has face sharp criticism over the past several months for its policy of allowing COVID-19-positive patients to return to nursing homes before they were declared free of the virus.

Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo said the state policy of allowing residents to return to elderly-care facilities was in line with guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. However, PolitiFact in May rated that claim "mostly false," pointing out the state appeared to pressure nursing homes to take COVID-19 patients regardless of whether they could properly house them.

The report by the New York Department of Health states that "an analysis of the timing between known nursing home staff infections and nursing home fatalities indicates that they are correlated." It also states that "the peak number of nursing home staff reporting COVID-19 symptoms occurred 23 days prior to the date of the peak nursing home fatalities."

The data "does not support [the] assertion" that infected patients were the spreaders of the disease, the department argues. 

"Nursing home resident fatalities peaked on April 8, 2020," the paper states.

"The peak of nursing home admissions from hospitals did not occur until April 14, 2020, a week after peak nursing home fatalities – suggesting the policy was not the cause."

The report also argues that "most patients readmitted to nursing homes were likely not infectious," claiming that they would likely have spent enough time in the hospital to have entered a non-infectious stage of the disease. 

Data also "do not show a consistent relationship between admissions and increased mortality," the report says, adding that "there were cases where nursing homes did not admit any COVID-positive patients, yet still had a high number of COVID-related deaths."

The report states that any staff who spread the disease did so "through no fault of their own," insofar as they would have been unaware they were infectious while working.

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