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Nursing Home Abuse Attorneys Question Governor’s Covid Policy

Nursing home abuse attorneys are looking for more transparency around the New York governor’s March 2020 directive, in which he ordered nursing homes to admit elderly Covid-19 patients. (The directive is no longer available on the New York Health Department website.) According to The New York Times, his administration took this measure to create more space for the onslaught of new Covid-19 cases. Early in the outbreak, if an elderly Covid-19 patient stabilized, they could be sent back to their nursing home. The New York Department of Health released a report that stated that between March 25, 2020, and May 8, 2020, New York nursing homes admitted 6,326 Covid-19 patients.

Did this measure lead to preventable deaths in one of New York’s most vulnerable populations? The governor’s office denied this and supported its position with a report in July 2020 that refuted the accusations. According to the report, many residents contracted the virus because of nursing home employees, who had the virus but did not yet know they were infected.

How does the New York governor’s administration know employees were the source of the deadly viral infection? Nursing home attorneys have pointed out that it’s impossible to verify the governor’s claims since his office refuses to release the study that led them to this conclusion. If a New Yorker suspects their elderly relative did suffer as a result of this policy, they face another legal hurdle: The governor granted legal immunity to nursing homes impacted by the pandemic. Attorneys can still try to build cases around wrongful deaths brought on by this policy. Nursing home attorneys will readily point out that this immunity shouldn’t absolve nursing homes of failures that existed before the pandemic.  

Why Won’t the New York Governor’s Office Release the Report?

When media outlet The Times Union reached out to New York’s gubernatorial administration for more information about the report, officials refused to provide the information and cited the Freedom of Information Law. They further refused to tell the Times Union why they were withholding the information.

Under New York State’s Freedom of Information Law, reports and studies are supposed to be available for public inspection. Reports not available to the public, however, include files related to the investigation of possible instances of professional misconduct. It’s impossible to say for certain why the governor’s office won’t release the report, but relatives of elderly patients who died of Covid-19 while under a nursing home’s care deserve answers.

How Many New York Nursing Home Residents Have Died of Covid-19?

As of January 2021, there have been 8,110 reported Covid-19 deaths in New York nursing homes. That number does not necessarily reflect how many potential transmissions may have stemmed from the governor’s policy. Calculating exactly how many New York nursing home residents died as a result of Covid-19 is nearly impossible. When New York officials tally the number, they only count seniors who died on the grounds of the nursing home and not those who died after transferring to a hospital.

Given that so many relatives could not visit nursing home residents because of the risk of transmitting Covid-19, it has a special sting that the governor’s own policies could have exposed nursing home residents to the virus. As Lorry Sullivan, a woman whose mother recently died in a nursing home, told The New York Times, “You lock old people in a nursing home and keep them away from their families, and then you put Covid patients in there?”

What Can I Do Now?

It’s not surprising that the governor’s report exonerated the governor. The fact that his administration refuses to produce reports that support their findings speaks volumes – why should they keep this information from the public? If you have concerns about your relative suffering the consequences of this dangerous Covid-19 policy, you should contact an experienced nursing home abuse attorney. Attorneys at Fitapelli Kurta can evaluate your case for free – get in touch by calling (877) 238-4175 or emailing info@fkesq.com.