New York State this week publicly disclosed the names of every nursing home that has had a confirmed or suspected Covid-19 death of a resident, after refusing for weeks to provide that information.
The 4,808 Covid-19 deaths in nursing homes through Sunday marked a spike of more than 1,600 deaths over the prior day's total, with many more suspected Covid-19 deaths added into the state's totals, a Health Department spokesman said.
The new data gives a much more detailed look at the death toll from Covid-19 at every nursing home in Western New York and across the state.
Previously, the state was identifying only those nursing homes that had five or more Covid-19 deaths, citing privacy concerns.
Father Baker Manor in Orchard Park, a nursing home run by Catholic Health, with 29 confirmed Covid-19 deaths, has the most Covid-19 fatalities in Western New York, according to the Health Department.
Six of the deaths attributed by the state to Father Baker Manor actually occurred at the new St. Joseph Post-Acute Treatment Center in Orchard Park, which operates under the Father Baker Manor license, according to JoAnn Cavanaugh, a spokeswoman for Catholic Health.
Across the state, Parker Jewish Institute for Health Care and Rehab in Queens County, with 71 confirmed Covid-19 deaths, had the most of any nursing home.
The Health Department indicated there are 2,274 confirmed Covid-19 deaths in nursing homes and another 2,534 fatalities in nursing homes that are suspected of being caused by the virus.
The new data does not reflect COVID-19 deaths that occurred outside of the nursing homes, according to the state. Many nursing home residents have died in hospitals of Covid-19 after being transferred there for care.
The data includes deaths from March 1 to May 3.
In Western New York, these are the nursing homes with confirmed or suspected Covid-19 deaths:
- Absolute Center for Nursing and Rehabilitation at Aurora Park, 6
- Beechwood Homes, 4
- Buffalo Center for Rehabilitation and Nursing, 11
- Buffalo Community Healthcare Center, 2
- Elderwood at Amherst, 3
- Elderwood at Lancaster, 1
- Ellicott Center for Rehabilitation and Nursing, 2
- Father Baker Manor, Orchard Park, 29
- Fiddlers Green Manor Rehabilitation and Nursing Center, 6
- Fox Run at Orchard Park, 1
- Garden Gate Healthcare Facility, 15
- Harris Hill Nursing Facility, 20
- Humboldt House Rehabilitation and Nursing Center, 3
- Rosa Coplon Jewish Home and Infirmary, 6
- Safire Rehabilitation of Northtowns, 5
- Seneca Healthcare Center, 12
- St. Catherine Laboure Healthcare Center, 2
- Elderwood at Lockport, 1
- Newfane Rehab and Healthcare Center, 8
- Niagara Rehabilitation and Nursing Center, 4
- Our Lady of Peace Nursing Care Residence, 3
- Schoellkopf Health Center, 1
- The Villages of Orleans Health and Rehabilitation Center, 12
- Wyoming County Community Hospital Skilled Nursing Facility, 2
There had been a lack of consistency in how nursing homes across the state reported their Covid-19 death totals in the past, with some facilities telling the state only about fatalities where Covid-19 was confirmed and others not reporting any Covid-19 deaths at all.
"The increases were largely fueled by presumed Covid-19 deaths that not all facilities had been consistently reporting before," said Gary Holmes, a Health Department spokesman, explaining the big jump in fatalities.
State Health Department officials had previously said that releasing data about nursing homes that had fewer than five Covid-19 deaths would constitute an invasion of the residents' privacy.
Holmes said Tuesday that while the agency still is concerned about the privacy of nursing home residents, it wants to be transparent.
"As the global pandemic continues to evolve, our reporting has evolved," he said.
New York has so far declined to provide the public with data on each nursing home showing the number of residents who have tested positive for Covid-19.
The Buffalo News filed a Freedom of Information Law request for that data on April 7. The state promised that same day that it would determine within 20 business days – by May 5 – whether the information should be released to The News.
Relatives of nursing home residents have complained to The News that the state and many nursing homes were refusing to provide them with that information. They complained that they did not know if their relatives were living in a facility that had an outbreak of Covid-19 cases.
So have advocates for nursing home residents.
"I very much appreciate they've taken a significant step forward," said Richard Mollot of the Long Term Care Community Coalition after the state released the information about Covid-19 fatalities at each nursing home. "But everyone has recognized that people need to know about known or suspected Covid cases, both among residents and care staff. The deaths are obviously important. But what we need to know is to what extent is this out there in our communities."
"Why is New York constantly behind the ball on this instead of being out front? Our residents and families are the most hit by this," said Mollot, whose nonprofit organization is based in New York City.
He also noted that the list of Covid-19 deaths at each nursing home that the Health Department released this week is nearly impossible to find on the Health Department's website.
Meanwhile, the number of Covid-19 fatalities at nursing homes is expected to climb each day as more residents fall victim and the facilities improve their consistency in reporting the data to the state.
The impact was apparent Tuesday in Niagara County, where six more deaths were announced Tuesday by the county Health Department.
Seventeen of the 34 Covid-19 deaths in Niagara County, or 50%, occurred in nursing homes, officials said.