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Leitner Varughese Warywoda on The Today Show and NBC News fighting for NY nursing home victims

Updated: Feb 2, 2021

Leitner Varughese Warywoda was featured on The Today Show and NBC News fighting for the families of more than 12,000 nursing home residents who died in New York nursing homes from COVID. Watch the media coverage here.

Here is a full transcript of the report on NBC’s Today show:

8:05 AM ET WILLIE GEIST: Now to a scathing new report out of New York, accusing the state of undercounting the number of COVID deaths in nursing homes. NBC’s Kristen Dahlgren joins us with a closer look. Kristen, good morning. KRISTEN DAHLGREN: Good morning, Willie. So we know what happened in nursing homes early on in the pandemic was tragic. But this morning, New York’s attorney general is saying it may have been much worse than we were told. [ON-SCREEN HEADLINE: New York Underreported Nursing Home Deaths?; State Attorney General Releases Scathing New Report] In a new report, the state’s attorney general saying New York may have underreported the number of COVID-19 deaths in nursing homes by as much as 50%. JAMES SKOUFIS [D-NEW YORK STATE SENATOR]: The state had not counted, as of today, nursing home residents who died in hospitals. And we deserve to know the full scope of just how horrific this nightmare, this crisis was. DAHLGREN: The 76-page report also blasts a March directive from Governor Andrew Cuomo, mandating nursing homes take in COVID patients to free up hospital beds. Adding, some of the facilities were unprepared for the order and failed to comply with protocols, like isolating infected patients. Vivian Rivera Zayas lost her mom, Anna, who was recovering from knee surgery at a care facility. VIVIAN RIVERA ZAYAS: Never would I have imagined that as soon as the doors were closed, that my mother would have passed away two days before she was supposed to be home. DAHLGREN: Her attorney, Brett Leitner, represents more than a hundred families with similar stories. BRETT LEITNER: Nursing homes knew about a COVID-positive resident and was still having them in the day room, in the elevators, without masks, and just in direct contact with the other elderly nursing home residents. DAHLGREN: Governor Cuomo has not commented on the report, but in the past has said that he was following federal guidelines. He spoke to Savannah last June. GOV. ANDREW CUOMO [D-NY]: What we did here in New York is nothing different than what the federal government put out as guidance for every state. Yes, people died in nursing homes, Savannah. SAVANNAH GUTHRIE: Was that a mistake? CUOMO: No, look, if you look at how many people died in nursing homes in New York compared to other states, we actually have a lower percentage of people who died in nursing homes. DAWN BEST: It should never have happened. DAHLGREN: For Dawn Best, who says her mom died of neglect while her nursing home was overrun with COVID, she hopes the report brings accountability. For her, it’s much more than numbers. BEST: New York State failed my mother and failed thousands of people’s mothers and fathers. DAHLGREN: This morning, the state health commissioner is taking issue with the accusation of an undercount. He says the state has always counted nursing home residents who died in hospitals separately. If you add them all up, Willie, those who died in nursing homes, in hospitals, and those that haven’t been confirmed yet but are suspected, it is more than 12,000, not the 6,000 that’s officially on the books. GEIST: It is a maddening report for so many families in this state. Kristen Dahlgren, thanks so much.

Yesterday, New York State Attorney General Letitia James released a scathing report bringing to light the failure of New York nursing homes to protect their residents, which led to the deaths of over 12,000 vulnerable people. The report can be viewed here.

The Attorney General's office stated the following:

Among those findings were that a larger number of nursing home residents died from COVID-19 than the New York State Department of Health’s (DOH) published nursing home data reflected and may have been undercounted by as much as 50 percent. The investigations also revealed that nursing homes’ lack of compliance with infection control protocols put residents at increased risk of harm, and facilities that had lower pre-pandemic staffing ratings had higher COVID-19 fatality rates. Based on these findings and subsequent investigation, Attorney General James is conducting ongoing investigations into more than 20 nursing homes whose reported conduct during the first wave of the pandemic presented particular concern.

Overview of Findings

The report includes preliminary findings based on data obtained in investigations conducted to date, recommendations that are based on those findings, related findings in pre-pandemic investigations of nursing homes, and other available data and analysis. Based on this information and subsequent investigation, OAG is currently conducting investigations into more than 20 nursing homes across the state. OAG found that:

  • A larger number of nursing home residents died from COVID-19 than DOH data reflected;

  • Lack of compliance with infection control protocols put residents at increased risk of harm;

  • Nursing homes that entered the pandemic with low U.S. Centers for Medicaid and Medicare Services (CMS) Staffing ratings had higher COVID-19 fatality rates;

  • Insufficient personal protective equipment (PPE) for nursing home staff put residents at increased risk of harm;

  • Insufficient COVID-19 testing for residents and staff in the early stages of the pandemic put residents at increased risk of harm;

  • The current state reimbursement model for nursing homes gives a financial incentive to owners of for-profit nursing homes to transfer funds to related parties (ultimately increasing their own profit) instead of investing in higher levels of staffing and PPE;

  • Lack of nursing home compliance with the executive order requiring communication with family members caused avoidable pain and distress; and

  • Government guidance requiring the admission of COVID-19 patients into nursing homes may have put residents at increased risk of harm in some facilities and may have obscured the data available to assess that risk.

New York nursing home negligence, abuse and neglect law firm Leitner Varughese Warywoda PLLC remains on the forefront of the battle on behalf of victims of neglect, abuse, negligence and other improper treatment in nursing homes. For more information, visit the Firm online at, or on social media at:


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