When Governor Hochul took office last week, she inherited all but five of the 63 requests for comprehensive pandemic data that the Empire Center filed earlier this summer.

How quickly her administration chips away at that unfinished business will provide a yardstick of her commitment to governing transparently — and to ending a pattern of secrecy and deception that contributed to former Governor Cuomo’s downfall.

Hochul made a significant gesture of openness on her first day, posting a more comprehensive tally of statewide COVID-19 deaths that was 12,000 higher than the one used by the Cuomo administration.

The day before, ironically, the Health Department had denied a request for detailed fatality data — which would have included the dates and locations of the newly acknowledged 12,000 deaths — on grounds that the information could not be retrieved with “reasonable effort.” The Empire Center has appealed that decision.

Over the 10 days that Hochul has been in office, there has been no further progress on the Empire Center’s record requests. The number of data sets released by Health Department has remained at five.

Modeled on a list of COVID-19 data sets compiled by Reinvent Albany, the center’s requests were meant to cover the gamut of pandemic information collected by the state. They sought previously unavailable details on infections, hospitalizations and deaths; records of how the pandemic unfolded in institutional settings such as nursing homes, prisons and psychiatric centers; copies of policy directive issued by state officials; information on purchases of equipment and supplies; and more. A full listing is available here.

All but one of the original requests was submitted to the Health Department on June 22. Some have since been modified or redirected to other agencies.

Here is where things stood as of midday Sept. 2:

Records provided:

Requests denied:

  • Deaths by ZIP code and date (not retrievable with reasonable effort; under appeal)
  • Summary of contact tracing (confidential by law)
  • Average time from positive test to hospitalization (no records available)
  • Average time from positive test to death (no records available)

Requests partially denied:

  • Fatalities by age, sex, ethnicity, comorbidities, date and county (incomplete records provided; under appeal)

Requests withdrawn:

Requests under appeal:

  • Deaths by ZIP code and date (denied/not retrievable with reasonable effort)
  • Fatalities by age, sex, ethnicity, co-morbidities, date and county (on grounds that records provided were incomplete)

Requests previously appealed:

  • Nursing home resident infections by facility and date (appeal objecting to unreasonable delay was denied)
  • Nursing home staff infections by facility and date (appeal objecting to unreasonable delay was denied)

Requests pending:

  • 42 at the Department of Health
  • Two referred to the Department of Homeland Security and Emergency Services
  • Two referred to the Office of Mental Health
  • Two referred to the Office for People with Developmental Disabilities
  • Four referred to the Department of Corrections and Community Supervision

About the Author

Bill Hammond

As the Empire Center’s senior fellow for health policy, Bill Hammond tracks fast-moving developments in New York’s massive health care industry, with a focus on how decisions made in Albany and Washington affect the well-being of patients, providers, taxpayers and the state’s economy.

Read more by Bill Hammond

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