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New York nursing home COVID fatality data does not always add up

The state's daily lists of overcount and undercount deaths. It's all because of what's in the fine print.

BUFFALO, N.Y. — Ever hear, “read the fine print”?

Here’s another example why it’s a good idea, courtesy the New York State Health Department.

Each day, the agency puts out a list of nursing homes statewide that have had COVID-related death. At the bottom of the cover page in smaller type is this disclaimer (with emphasis added): “This data captures COVID-19 confirmed and COVID-19 presumed deaths within nursing homes and adult care facilities.”

So, if a COVID-positive nursing home resident is sent to a hospital where she/he passes away, that death does not count toward the nursing home’s total on the state health department’s daily list.

The state’s data also overcounts fatalities. Example: The Catholic Health facility, Father Baker Manor in Orchard Park.

As of Wednesday, the total COVID-deaths at Father Baker was listed as 54. But the total also includes fatalities at St. Joseph’s Post-Acute Center, which was put together by Catholic Health and The McGuire Group as a place to admit nursing home residents leaving hospitals.

Catholic Health director of public relations, JoAnn Cavanaugh explains to get St. Joseph operational quickly, it was created under the licensed for Father Baker.

So, all COVID-fatalities at both facilities are counted as at Father Baker.

Another Catholic Health nursing home, McAuley Residence is listed wth just one COVID-death by the state health department. But the actual number, first reported by The Buffalo News is around two dozen because of transfers of residents to St. Joseph's Post-Acute.

Buffalo State Assembly Member Sean Ryan says the State Health Department could do a better job with its daily nursing home fatalities reports.

“What you want to do is have accurate picture of how much sickness is in a nursing home.

We can’t be afraid to paint the full picture for the public but that full picture has to based on truth,” said Ryan.

Ryan also points out the agency has not disclosed nursing home plans to test staffers for COVID which were due last week.

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