New York’s Nursing Home Nightmare

Although the worst of New York’s coronavirus pandemic has thankfully subsided, the true toll in New York nursing homes remains hidden.

The Health Department’s official tally of more than 6,500 deaths counts only residents who died physically within the homes, leaving out potentially thousands more who died after being transferred to hospitals. This understates the human loss and impedes efforts to learn critical lessons from a public health catastrophe.

To obtain the full truth, the Empire Center has filed suit against the Health Department under the Freedom of Information Law. This page will document the progress of the case.

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Latest Updates on Empire Center v. Department of Health

Thursday, Oct. 22: The state’s formal response to the lawsuit was delayed three business days after an attorney for the Health Department requested a filing extension. The response had been due on Oct. 22, and the Empire Center agreed to a new deadline of Monday, Oct. 26. The state separately asked to postpone the Oct. 30 return date, which is when a Supreme Court judge in Albany County is due to formally take up the case. The Empire Center opposed that request.

Monday, Oct. 12: NYS Health Commissioner Howard Zucker says DOH will release data detailing COVID deaths in nursing homes and assisted living facilities “once we have checked there’s no duplication.”

Tuesday, Sept. 29: Sen. James Tedisco, R-Saratoga, announces that he is filing a friend-of-the-court brief in support of the Empire Center’s case.

Friday, Sept. 25: The Office of the Attorney General, which is representing DOH, assigns an attorney to the case and requests a routine two-week adjournment. Briefs from both sides are due before a court date of Oct. 30.

Friday, Sept. 18: The Empire Center for Public Policy files suit against the Department of Health in state Supreme Court, seeking to enforce its Freedom of Information Law request for the complete count of coronavirus deaths in nursing homes.

Wednesday, Sept. 16: DOH rejects the Empire Center’s appeal.

Tuesday, Sept. 1: The Empire Center files an appeal to DOH, arguing that the requested data is readily available in the department’s Health Emergency Response Data System, or HERDS.

Monday, Aug. 31: In a letter to the Empire Center, DOH says it will respond to the Empire Center’s FOIL request no sooner than Nov. 5 “because a diligent search for relevant documents is still being conducted.”

Monday, Aug. 3: The Empire Center files a Freedom of Information request with the Department of Health seeking “records of COVID-19-related deaths of residents of nursing homes and assisted living facilities, including those who died while physically outside of the homes.”


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Empire Center for Public Policy
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The Empire Center is an independent, non-partisan, non-profit think tank located in Albany, New York. Our mission is to make New York a better place to live and work by promoting public policy reforms grounded in free-market principles, personal responsibility, and the ideals of effective and accountable government.