ALBANY, NY — Governor Kathy Hochul revealed an additional 12,000 New York COVID deaths previously unreported in its death toll. Bill Hammond, senior fellow for health policy at the Empire Center, issued the following statement.

“Governor Hochul’s acknowledgement of a higher and more accurate death toll is a good first step—but it’s only a first step.

“The Department of Health (DOH) still has much to answer for, as outlined in the 60-plus FOILs we have submitted in hopes of revealing a clearer picture of the state’s COVID response. Unfortunately, fewer than 10 have so far been satisfactorily met.

“One of our FOILs sought details behind the higher death toll of 55,000—but DOH denied it on Monday afternoon, during the closing hours of the Cuomo administration. Rather than providing an explanation, they directed us to the limited data already available through the state’s data portal, which counts only confirmed deaths in hospitals, nursing homes and adult-care facilities. This is unacceptable.

“The Cuomo administration left out many people who died without a test during the early weeks of the pandemic, and thousands of others who died at home or in other institutional settings such as hospices, group homes, psychiatric centers and prisons.

“Thanks to Governor Hochul, the state has officially acknowledged that those additional losses total about 12,000. But we know nothing else. As an organization committed to openness in government, the Empire Center is pleased with Governor Hochul’s commitment to leading a fully transparent administration—and that means being fully transparent with all COVID data.

“Secrecy about pandemic data is both bad public policy and a violation of the Freedom of Information Law. The governor who initiated these bad practices is gone now. His replacement should set a new tone of maximum transparency, especially and urgently with respect to pandemic records.”

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.

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