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New York adds 1,600 previously undisclosed deaths to coronavirus nursing home total

They're presumed coronavirus deaths, not lab confirmed

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo speaks during his daily press briefing on May 1 in Albany, New York. (Stefani Reynolds/Getty Images)

The New York state health department added more than 1,600 new deaths to the total number of people who have died from COVID-19 in nursing homes, the New York Times reported.

These new deaths were people who are presumed to have died from the novel coronavirus, but that diagnosis has not been confirmed by a lab test. The total number of nursing home coronavirus deaths in New York is now listed at 4,813, which doesn't include nursing home residents who died in hospitals.

The addition of the presumed deaths is a part of a state revision in data collection and publishing.

"This crisis and our response to it continues to evolve," a health department spokesperson said. "And the unprecedented amount and specificity of data we are providing to the public will continue to evolve with it."

So far, nursing homes account for about a quarter of all coronavirus deaths in New York, although David Grabowski, a Harvard University researcher who specializes in nursing homes, said that he expects nursing homes to account for half of all COVID-19 deaths in every state.

Getting accurate data out of nursing homes has been an issue during this pandemic, NYT reported:

Nursing homes had fought the release of death counts for individual facilities, arguing that a large toll might not indicate poor infection control and might scare families unnecessarily.

Even after the state started to release data about nursing home deaths on April 17, workers at several homes told The New York Times that their employers were not reporting accurate counts for fear of bad publicity.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) who has called nursing homes a "feeding frenzy" for COVID-19, has defended a state policy that requires nursing homes to admit patients even if they've tested positive for the coronavirus.

"There is no way for us to prevent the spread under these conditions," Donny Tuchman, the head of the Cobble Hill Health Center in Brooklyn, said in an email to the state health department in early April. At least 55 of his patients have died of the coronavirus.

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