The admission of coronavirus-positive patients into New York nursing homes under March 25 guidance from the state Health Department was associated with a statistically significant increase in resident deaths, an Empire Center analysis has found.

The analysis of newly released state data, authored by center senior fellow Bill Hammond and center fellow Ian Kingsbury, shows that each new admission of a COVID-positive patient correlated with .09 additional deaths, with a margin of error of plus or minus 0.05.

It also found that admitting any number of new COVID-positive patients was associated with an average of 4.2 additional deaths per facility (MOE plus or minus 1.9).

The effect was more pronounced upstate—possibly because the pandemic was less severe in that region at the time, so even a single exposure would have had a larger impact on the level of risk.

In the upstate region, facilities that admitted at least one positive patient during this period accounted for 82 percent of coronavirus deaths among nursing home residents, even though they had only 32 percent of the residents.

Statewide, the findings imply that the total of 6,327 COVID-positive admissions between late March and early May were associated with several hundred, and possibly more than 1,000, additional resident deaths.

“The coronavirus pandemic wreaked havoc in nursing homes across the country and around the world, including in jurisdictions that did not adopt policies similar to those in the Cuomo administration’s March 25 guidance memo,” said Hammond. “However, this analysis indicates that the guidance may have made a bad situation worse—and points to the need for further research to determine the best policy before the state faces another pandemic.”

The analysis—which is based on the limited data available—sheds new light on the Cuomo administration’s much-debated March 25 guidance memo, which instructed nursing homes not to refuse the admission of coronavirus-positive patients being discharged from hospitals. The policy—inspired by concern about overcrowding of hospitals at the height of New York’s spring wave—was effectively rescinded on May 10.

The full statistical analysis can be viewed here. The Empire Center’s full database of nursing home fatalities is available here.

The Empire Center, based in Albany, is an independent, not-for-profit, non-partisan think tank dedicated to promoting policies that can make New York a better place to live, work and raise a family.

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The Empire Center is an independent, non-partisan, non-profit think tank located in Albany, New York. Our mission is to make New York a better place to live and work by promoting public policy reforms grounded in free-market principles, personal responsibility, and the ideals of effective and accountable government.

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