BUFFALO, N.Y. (WKBW) — Hours after a scathing report by State Attorney General Letitia James, the administration of Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo late Thursday released a new figure for total nursing home deaths: 12,743.
It also disclosed that nursing homes in Western New York were fined a total of $214,000 for deficiencies related to COVID-19.
“This only represents a portion of the total number of cases for which we are actively pursuing fines,” Health Department spokesperson Jill Montag said in an email.
The new death figure -- 12,743 deaths -- includes New Yorkers who got sick at nursing homes and died at hospitals. Previously, the department had only given a figure of 8,505 deaths as of Jan. 19.
But figuring out how many of those roughly 4,000 reclassified deaths are in Western New York is not easy.
“Because this is an ongoing matter, we are not releasing information on specific nursing homes or regions at this time,” Morgan Rubin, a spokesperson for James, said in an email.
As of Jan. 27, state data shared by the Health Department showed that Erie County had 624 coronavirus deaths in nursing homes: the second-highest total in New York State.
That figure did not include nursing home residents who later died at hospitals. James’ report stated that COVID-19 “deaths associated with nursing homes in New York state (sic) appear to be undercounted by DOH by approximately 50 percent.”
Fifty percent of 624 coronavirus deaths is 312 deaths. Added to Erie County’s prior total, and the new figure would be 936 deaths, including those in hospitals.
Zucker said the health department has cracked down on nursing homes for some of the deficiencies that were cited in the AG’s report.
In Western New York, the health department fined 12 nursing homes a total of $214,000 for COVID-related problems, including:
- Humbolt House Rehabilitation and Nursing Center– 2 separate fines of $50,000 and $2,000
- Williamsville Suburban – 2 separate fines of $2,000 and $6,000
- Buffalo Center for Nursing and Rehabilitation – 2 separate fines of $22,000 and $4,000
- Lockport Rehabilitation and Health Care - $4,000
- Beechwood Homes - $6,000
- Brothers of Mercy Nursing and Rehabilitation $6,000
- Safire Rehabilitation of Northtowns - $12,000
- Comprehensive Nursing and Rehab Center at Williamsville – $14,000
- The Lutheran Retirement Home –$20,000
- The Villages at Orleans Health and Rehab Center – $20,000
- NYS Veterans’ Home at Batavia – 22,000
- Grand at Batavia - $24,000
When asked by reporters Friday why the state didn’t give the full tally of nursing home deaths until after the AG’s report, Cuomo deferred to Health Commissioner Howard Zucker.
“The total number of deaths does not change…that number has not changed,” Zucker said.
The governor said regardless of where infected New Yorkers died -- whether in a nursing home or in a hospital -- the result was the same.
“A third of all deaths in this nation are from nursing homes,” Cuomo said. “New York State, we’re...about 28 percent. We’re below the national average in number of deaths in nursing homes, but who cares? Thirty-three, twenty-eight, died in a hospital, died in a nursing home...They died!”