NEW YORK - Mayor Bill de Blasio on Friday reacted to an exclusive NY1 report that a Manhattan nursing home has seen nearly a hundred coronavirus-related deaths among residents.
Speaking from City Hall, the mayor said the potential death toll at Isabella Geriatric Center in Washington Heights is "horrifying.”
Forty-six residents of the Isabella Geriatric Center have died from the new coronavirus, with 52 others dying from suspected cases, which would make it the largest such cluster in New York state.
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According to the state, as of Wednesday, only 13 people have died from COVID-19 at the Washington Heights nursing home.
But that number is deceiving.
The death toll is much, much higher. At least 98 residents of Isabella Geriatric Center have died since the pandemic started. They either tested positive for COVID-19 or were suspected to have the virus. They died on site, at the home, or at a nearby hospital. It's almost 14 percent of the residents.
These numbers have not been disclosed by the state or Isabella until now. The number of deaths at the nursing home far exceeds the reported numbers of any other nursing home in the entire state.
In mid-April, Isabella admitted to a growing death count. In a message on its website, the nursing home gave the official count it gave to the state but went on to say at least 19 people died in the hospital, too. It said another 37 deaths at Isabella and one at a hospital were suspected to be from the coronavirus.
The facility has since deleted that paragraph from the website.
“They submit these numbers under penalty of perjury. You violate — you commit fraud, that is a criminal offense. Period,” Cuomo said on Friday, responding to NY1’s reporting. “So they can be prosecuted criminally for fraud on any of these reporting numbers.”
The governor said nursing homes that submit inaccurate fatality data to the state are subject to prosecution.
That said, officials admitted on Friday there were some inconsistencies and confusion about the state data. Some nursing homes were not including suspected deaths from COVID-19 in their death tolls; they only included confirmed cases.
The governor also said he would look into deaths that occurred at the hospital after individuals were transferred sick from nursing homes.
“We want to know that. That’s your question and that’s a good question and we are going to be asking that today when I get on the phone with the hospitals,” Cuomo said.
The governor also said that if a misleading number of deaths is reported, the nursing home will be investigated by the Department of Health and may have its license revoked.
In an email Friday, a spokesperson for Isabella said the facility truthfully and accurately reported data to the Department of Health since the onset of the pandemic. She said the facility is committed to doing whatever it can to keep its vulnerable residents safe.
But that did not stop the shock.
“It’s absolutely horrifying. This is a staggering toll that we are hearing about now,” de Blasio said. “I am shocked.”
The mayor said while nursing homes remain under the oversight of the state, the city will continue to provide resources where it can.
"I think the one thing we now about nursing homes is the status quo cannot continue, to say the least. And something very different has to happen," de Blasio added.
Now, the local congressman wants an investigation.
“There is a coverup by the industry as to the number of people that are positive, the ones that have passed away,” Rep. Adriano Espaillat said. “Overall there has been a lack of transparency, and families and communities deserve to know what is going on in those centers.”
“I have been fighting since April 14 for that particular center to let us know, the community, and I have heard from family members who want to know exactly what was going on in Isabella,” Espaillat continued.
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