March 21, 2022

An audit of data collected by the New York Department of Health (DOH) regarding nursing home COVID-19 deaths that was released on March 15, 2022 found: “DOH did not provide the public with accurate COVID-19 death counts and became entangled in the undercounting of those deaths as the Executive took control of information provided to the public. DOH would not provide auditors with a breakdown by name of the nursing home residents who died from COVID-19, and the actual number of nursing home residents who died is still uncertain. The audit revealed that, on many key indicators, New York significantly trailed other states in surveying nursing homes and developing strategies to stop infections from spreading in facilities.”

The key findings of the audit were:

  • DOH understated the number of nursing home deaths due to COVID-19 by at least 4,100, and at times during the pandemic by more than 50%. A timeline included in the audit details the inaccurate death counts reported by DOH. When questioned by auditors, DOH officials could not explain the discrepancies. Auditors found the Executive routinely reported incorrect data, inflating the perception of New York’s performance against other states.
  • DOH was slow to respond to a federal directive to conduct surveys of nursing homes for infection control problems, surveying just 20% of facilities between March 23 and May 30, 2020, compared with over 90% for some other states. DOH had to hire temporary employees to conduct nursing home surveys during the pandemic because it was understaffed. DOH issued 602 violations from these surveys; however, for 413 (69%) of them there was no indication that the deficiency was corrected.
  • While DOH collects data on a range of issues including infections, DOH does not use it broadly to detect breakouts, geographic trends, and emerging infectious diseases or to shape its infection control policies. It also relies heavily on self-reported data from nursing homes. Auditors found that data from one of DOH’s key informational systems was not complete nor reliable, and found that DOH was aware of this problem long before the pandemic and had committed to resolve it. However, DOH never followed through on the corrective actions, which may have limited its ability to respond to the COVID-19 nursing home crisis.
  • DOH imposed impediments on the audit, including delaying requested data, limiting auditors’ contact with program staff, not addressing auditors’ questions during meetings, and not providing supporting documentation. These are not routine actions by state agencies undergoing an Office of the State Comptroller audit and raise serious concerns about the control environment at DOH.


If you or a loved one may have a nursing home COVID-19 claim in New York or elsewhere in the United States, you should promptly contact a New York COVID-19 nursing home lawyer, or a COVID-19 nursing home lawyer in your state, who may investigate your COVID-19 nursing home claim for you and represent you and/or your loved one in a COVID-19 nursing home case, if appropriate.

Click here to visit our website or call us toll-free in the United States at 800-295-3959 to find COVID-19 claim attorneys in your U.S. state who may assist you.

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