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How rich: The state is fining nursing homes for missing deadlines to report data — by as little as a minute — while it has withheld its own figures on nursing-home COVID deaths for months.
As The Post reported last week, nursing homes have been fined $2,000 a day for missing daily deadlines to report data to the Health Department. In a Dec. 21 letter to Health Commissioner Howard Zucker, LeadingAge New York CEO James Clyne Jr. wrote that he “was surprised to learn recently that facilities are being cited for submitting a single survey 1 minute late after 8 months of consistent compliance” with the state’s Health Emergency Response Data System. That system compiles data, including confirmed and presumed deaths from COVID-19 at New York’s 617 nursing homes.
The death tally is officially around 7,400, but the true number could be twice that because New York, unlike other states, doesn’t count nursing-home residents who died in hospitals. The state does keep track of the total, but it won’t release it. Which is outrageous. And inexcusable.
Yet it’s obvious why: Team Cuomo’s March 25 edict forcing nursing homes to take in COVID-positive patients proved deadly, and the governor doesn’t want to take the heat for even more fatalities.
Cuomo quietly rescinded the order May 11 and has never admitted it was a mistake, despite stating he knew the virus would “spread like wildfire” through the vulnerable nursing-home population.
His administration issued a whitewashing report in July that was meant to absolve itself from blame — yet revealed that more than 6,300 recovering coronavirus patients were sent to nursing homes. Fifty-eight homes didn’t have a single case of COVID, among the residents or staff, before the new patients arrived.
Lawmakers from both parties have demanded the full data on deaths, even introducing bills in the Legislature after Zucker refused to provide the info when asked in August — which his department collects on a daily basis. The Empire Center for Public Policy sued under the freedom-of-information law to get the numbers. But in every case, the Cuomo administration has stonewalled.
Now it has the nerve to fine nursing homes. As the Empire Center’s Bill Hammond snarked, “It’s too bad the people of New York can’t penalize the state for failing to release the same information to the public.”
Health Department spokesman Gary Holmes insists, “Timely, truthful and accurate reporting” is “critically important.” He’s right — which is why his department should provide it. Pronto.