The New York State Bar Association announced it is launching a task force that will be investigating why so many nursing home residents died from COVID-19 across the state.

Well over 6,000 nursing home residents died from COVID-19, although the exact number is still unknown. Currently, if a nursing home resident passes away from COVID-19 in a hospital, it is counted as a hospital death, not as a nursing home death. This has led to medical experts, lawmakers, and more to point out the inconsistencies with this data and explain the difficulties of moving forward with policies if the state still does not have an accurate death count.

"Nursing homes and long-term care facilities were Ground Zero for COVID-19 in New York and many other states," NYSBA president Scott M. Karson said. "We entrust these facilities to care for our loved ones and as lawyers, we must do our part to make sure something like this doesn't happen again."

The State Bar Association says the task force will be examining current laws and regulations to determine if changes need to be made, so this enormous loss of life does not happen again if there is a second wave of the virus.  

The task force will be co-chaired by Hermes Fernandez and Sandra D. Rivera, both who live in Albany. Providers, advocacy groups and others will be invited to meet with the panel. The task force will prepare recommendations for the April 2021 meeting of NYSBA's governing body, the House of Delegates.

The announcement of this task force comes shortly after the Department of Justice released a memo, asking Governor Andrew Cuomo to release COVID-19 data from state-run nursing homes.

"We’re going to look at the challenges that confronted providers of services,” Rivera said. “The members of this task force will bring a variety of perspectives to the work, which will be helpful as we develop recommendations."