Anne McCloy

ALBANY NY (WRGB) – Bill Hammond says New York State is misrepresenting the number of COVID-19 deaths that have happened in nursing homes during this pandemic.

“The State has been counting nursing home deaths in an unusual way,” he said.

Hammond is Senior Fellow for Health Policy at The Empire Center for Public Policy, a self-described “government watchdog group” in Albany. He spoke to CBS 6’s Anne McCloy about his recent report analyzing numbers surrounding the nursing home debacle.

Anne: “Why is it important to get the real numbers?”

Bill Hammond: “To learn lessons from it.”

Hammond says the New York State Department of Health (NYSDOH) is only releasing the number of deaths that occurred within the four walls of the nursing home, and is not including deaths at hospitals. So, Hammond pulled different numbers, instead analyzing the number of empty beds, or vacancies.

“A 13-point difference means there are 13,000 normally there who aren’t there,” Hammond said.

NYSDOH has the death rate from nursing homes at about 6,500, but with the vacancy rate at 13,000, Hammond says the death count is likely much higher. The agency did not provide CBS 6 the number of nursing home deaths from hospitals.

Hammond believes the State has been reluctant to release the numbers because of potential political fallout.

“If they revise their death count and it goes up by as many as I think it will go up, it’s not going to be a good news story and it won’t be a flattering news story,” Hammond said.

Rich Azzopardi, Senior Advisor to New York Governor Andrew Cuomo responded, in a statement:

“Trust shady right-wing think tanks with undisclosed funders at your own peril,” Azzopardi said.

Azzopardi’s statement said the spike in deaths were “likely caused by asymptomatic staffers” early on in the pandemic and “predated the March 25th directive”.

Governor Cuomo has been widely criticized for a March policy that allowed COVID-19 positive patients into nursing homes. Hammond agrees that the issue has been politicized.

“The line of attack has been Governor Cuomo deliberately introduced Coronavirus into nursing homes. I think that is unfair and over the top,” Hammond said.

But Hammond says Cuomo has taken the wrong route by dismissing all questions and criticism as a political conspiracy.

“The importance of discussing this and getting the true facts out is to understand what did and didn’t happen so we can learn from it in case this happens again,” Hammond said.

Hammond said it’s critical the State be transparent so that it can prepare for a possible resurgence of COVID-19 in the Fall, and says transparency will help the State to make future pandemic plans.

State lawmakers plan to hold public hearings into the State’s handling of nursing homes during the pandemic beginning Monday.

© 2020 CBS6 Albany

You may also like

Hospitals, nursing homes face another Medicaid cut during pandemic

Michael Gormley ALBANY — The state told hospitals and nursing homes this week that they will be hit with another cut in Medicaid funding as the health care system reels from costs related to fighting the COVID-19 virus and state revenue plum Read More

The good, the bad and the ugly in Cuomo’s budget

“We are at the early stages of what shapes up as the biggest state and city fiscal crisis since the Great Depression,” said E.J. McMahon of the Empire Center. “Borrowing and short-term cuts aside, the budget doesn’t chart any clear path out of it.” Read More

Editorial: Cuomo’s problematic Medicaid maneuvers

“It’s everything that’s wrong with Albany in one ugly deal,” Bill Hammond, a health policy expert at the fiscally conservative Empire Center, told The Times. Read More

Gov. Cuomo’s Lawsuit on Pres. Trump’s Tax Cuts Dismissed

But according to the Empire Center, a non-profit group based in Albany, the overall impact of the Trump tax cuts actually benefited most state residents. Read More

NYS Healthcare Costs Rise Amid Report Of Pay-To-Play Allegations

Earlier this year, another fiscal watchdog group,  The Empire Center, found that  Cuomo’s budget office had delayed a $1.7 billion Medicaid payment from the previous fiscal year into the current fiscal year. Because of the delay, the governor was able to keep within a self imposed 2% yearly spending cap. Read More

After Hospitals’ Donation to New York Democrats, a $140 Million Payout

“It’s everything that’s wrong with Albany in one ugly deal,” said Bill Hammond, a health policy expert at the nonpartisan Empire Center who first noticed the budgetary trick. “The governor was able to unilaterally direct a billion dollars to a major interest group while secretly accepting its campaign cash and papering over a massive deficit in the Medicaid program.” Read More

What Cuomo’s executive order on vaping will and won’t do

“If you have these really young kids and teens getting hooked, then that’s not good," said Bill Hammond, director of health policy at the Empire Center for Public Policy. "But the first step would be to do some research, have a public hearing, get the best expert evidence that you have. Instead of reacting to headlines, find out what’s really going on and proceed with proposed regulations.” Read More

$1 billion semiconductor plant: ‘Flashy mega-project’ or ‘transformational investment’ for New York?

"The state is continuing its strategy of pursuing flashy mega-projects instead of making New York more attractive for all businesses. We're now in the second decade of this approach, and it's still failing to deliver the promised results," Girardin said. "This is the sort of economic development strategy that politicians turn to when they don't want to take on the tougher questions." Read More

Subscribe

Sign up to receive updates about Empire Center research, news and events in your email.

CONTACT INFORMATION

Empire Center for Public Policy
30 South Pearl St.
Suite 1210
Albany, NY 12207

Phone: 518-434-3100
Fax: 518-434-3130
E-Mail: info@empirecenter.org

About

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.