ALBANY – The New York State Health Department will be required to release COVID-19 data reported by New York’s nursing home operators following a state judge’s ruling on Wednesday.
State Supreme Court Judge Kimberly O’Connor ruled in favor of the lawsuit filed by independent think tank Empire Center.
The Albany based group sued Governor Andrew Cuomo’s administration and the state Health Department in September to release comprehensive infection and mortality data from nursing homes throughout the pandemic.
The group previously requested the records under the Freedom of Information Law, which the Center says the Health Department had postponed responding three times; a delay of more than seven months.
Justice O’Connor addressed the delays in her ruling, saying, “DOH does not, in the Court’s opinion, offer an adequate explanation as to why it has not responded to that request within its estimated time period or to date… The Court is not persuaded that the respondent’s estimated date for responding to Empire Center’s FOIL request is reasonable under the circumstances of the request.”
The Empire Center says the state has been collecting comprehensive infection and mortality data from nursing homes throughout the pandemic, however, sharing only a partial death toll with the public.
The reports, the Center says, exclude residents who were transferred to hospitals before dying, a practice used by no other state.
“We hope Justice O’Connor’s unequivocal ruling finally pushes the Cuomo administration to do the right thing,” said Bill Hammond, senior fellow for health policy at the Empire Center in a statement. “The people of New York — especially those who have lost loved ones in nursing homes — have waited much too long to see this clearly public information about one of the worst disasters in state history.”
Last week, in response to a critical report on nursing homes from the State Attorney General’s Office, Health Commissioner Howard Zucker revealed that almost 4,000 nursing home residents had succumbed to COVID-19 in hospitals, boosting the total nursing home toll to almost 13,000.
According to the ruling, the Health Department has up to five business days to release the data.
The full ruling is posted below: