ALBANY, NY — Seeking the fullest possible picture of the state’s pandemic response, the Empire Center for Public Policy today filed 62 Freedom of Information Law requests for coronavirus-related records from the Department of Health.

The requests demand a broad range of public records documenting the toll of the virus across New York as well as officials’ attempts to contain what became one of the deadliest disasters in state history.

Before invoking FOIL, the Empire Center and other good government groups had jointly urged state lawmakers to proactively post as much coronavirus data as possible – and provided a list of more than 120 critical data sets.

More than 7,000 New Yorkers signed an Empire Center petition urging the Cuomo administration to comply, but it gave no answer and most of the data remain unavailable to researchers, policymakers and the general public.

“We’ve done everything we can think of to encourage the proactive release of these data and to avoid filing these FOIL requests,” noted Tim Hoefer, President and CEO of the Empire Center. “But the Department of Health and Cuomo Administration seem determined to continue hiding taxpayers’ data. And we can’t let that stand.”

In a previous FOIL case, the Empire Center won a February court order compelling the Cuomo administration to release complete data on how many nursing home residents had died from COVID-19, including thousands of previously omitted resident deaths that had occurred in hospitals.

The center’s new FOIL requests would fill blank spots in the state’s COVID reporting. For example, the center has asked for a day-by-day ZIP code-level breakdown of infections and deaths, so New Yorkers can evaluate how particular policy choices affected case numbers.

Among the other records requested are details on the transfers of COVID-positive hospital patients into nursing homes under a controversial March 2020 order from the Health Department, and the inventory of the state’s pandemic stockpile and how its materials were distributed.

The full list of requested data can be seen here.

“New York cannot properly prepare for the next pandemic until it understands what went wrong in this one,” said Bill Hammond, senior fellow for health policy at the Empire Center. “That critical learning process begins with letting the public see the facts.”

The Empire Center, based in Albany, is an independent, not-for-profit, non-partisan think tank dedicated to promoting policies that can make New York a better place to live, work and raise a family.

You may also like

Statement on the announced departure of New York State Health Commissioner Mary T. Bassett

After State Health Commissioner Dr. Mary T. Bassett announced her departure, Empire Center's Bill Hammond issued the following statement. Read More

Empire Center Makes State Exam Results Publicly Accessible  

After petitioning for the release of ELA and math exam data for students in grades 3-8, the Empire Center has published the results. Read More

Empire Center Sues for Withheld Assessment Data Disclosure 

The New York State Education Department missed a Freedom of Information Law deadline to disclose statewide test results. Read More

Empire Center Appeals NYSED Attempt to Veil Performance Metrics Until 2023

The legality and appropriateness of the New York State Education Department’s attempt to delay access to important student performance metrics is being challenged in a formal appeal of an Empire Center Freedom of Information Law (FOIL) request Read More

Statement: Independent Pandemic Research Commission is Needed

Today, Governor Kathy Hochul announced that she is issuing an RFP for a review of the state's handling of the COVID-19 pandemic Read More

Report documents growing use of ‘related companies’ by New York’s nursing home operators

New York's nursing home operators are increasingly outsourcing expenses to separate companies that they also own or control. Read More

Budget Testimony: Dangerous Misplaced Priorities on Health Care

In his spoken testimony, Hammond had intended to highlight key shortcomings of the governor's budget, including its lack of a plan to investigate the state's pandemic response Read More

Statement on the release of new COVID-19 Death Toll data

The Cuomo administration left out many people who died without a test during the early weeks of the pandemic Read More

Empire Center Logo Enjoying our work? Sign up for email alerts on our latest news and research.
Together, we can make New York a better place to live and work!