State Department of Health releasing more data on nursing home fatalities

The New York State Department of Health is now providing limiting data on fatalities that have been reported at specific nursing homes and assisted living facilities throughout the state.

The list does not include any nursing homes with fewer than five fatalities due to privacy concerns. Gov. Andrew Cuomo, when repeatedly questioned over the last month about nursing home fatalities and the lack of any specific information, has said there needs to be a balance between privacy and the information released.

The only local nursing home, rehab facility or retirement center included on the list is Peconic Landing. As of April 5, Peconic Landing had confirmed nine fatalities of members at the Greenport lifecare and retirement community. The data reported to the state shows six fatalities, which occurred in the nursing home section of the facility.

Peconic Landing declined to further clarify the numbers.

An emailed statement from the Virgina-based public relations firm Dean Goldman, Goldman & Associates said: “Peconic Landing is our members’ home and the work environment of our team members and out of respect for the personal privacy of everyone here, we are not providing details on individuals’ health status or care processes.”

The PR firm brands itself as “the leader in public relations for [senior living providers]” on its website.

Peconic Landing has no longer released information on the number of members or staff members who have tested positive following that April 5 update. On Wednesday, a message on its website said: “We continue to communicate with our members via multiple platforms and provide daily updates through our in-house TV channel 591.”

More than 3,000 deaths have been reported at nursing homes and assisted living facilities in the state, according the most recent figures.

Carillon Nursing and Rehabilitation Center in Huntington has the highest figure in Suffolk County with 29. Apex Rehabilitation & Care Center in Dix Hills has reported 26 fatalities. Nine Suffolk facilities are listed as of Friday afternoon.

Mr. Cuomo said during Friday’s media briefing that the data is reported to the state by the nursing homes.

“We only know what they tell us,” he said.

Mr. Cuomo has issued an executive order that mandates nursing homes to inform family members of residents of COVID-19 cases. Mr. Cuomo said on Friday the State Department of Health had previously issued a guidance for nursing homes to communicate that information to families, but many were not doing so.

The executive order mandates the families be notified within 24 hours.

Melissa DeRosa, secretary to the governor, said there will be civil penalties for any facility that fails to report the information.

The Suffolk Times reported a case where a 52-year-old Calverton man who is disabled tested positive for the coronavirus shortly after being discharged from Sayville Nursing & Rehabilitation Center. His mother, Diana Ruvolo, said she was unaware of any positive cases at the facility while he was being cared for there. The data recently released by the state shows there have been six fatalities at the facility.

Mr. Cuomo defended the state’s response to containing outbreaks at nursing homes and said the measure to restrict visitation was a harsh policy to enact.

“We’ve said 157 times the most vulnerable population is our seniors, the most vulnerable place are nursing homes,” Mr. Cuomo said. “We have special precautions for nursing homes. I think we’ve been talking about it all along.”

Peconic Landing said Wednesday that the measures it has enacted have been in collaboration with its medical director, Dr. Nathanael Desire, and Stony Brook University Hospital in accordance with CDC and State DOH guidelines.

Newsday attempted to obtain information on positive COVID-19 cases from 174 nursing homes or assisted living facilities on Long Island and 152 declined to provide any specifics or answer at all.

Nearly 65% of fatalities in the state have been people ages 70 or older.