ALBANY, NY — Just three COVID data sets have been made fully available in the month since the Empire Center officially submitted a total of 62 Freedom of Information Law (FOIL) requests for coronavirus-related records from the Department of Health and other state agencies.

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.

The data provided were vaccination numbers organized by several demographic variables (including ethnicity, race, and age); a record of all COVID-19 antigen testing—including the types of test, dates, resident county of those tested and results from March 1, 2020, forward; and surveillance data on flu-like illness data gathered by the Health Department from December 2019 through March 2020. Three requests have been denied, citing a lack of available data.

The Department of Health has responded to the other submitted FOIL requests—though the vast majority of those responses were simply postponing action until September or later. The explanation given for all postponements was “a diligent search for records is still being conducted,” and did not include a hard deadline for completion, as required by law.

“Unfortunately, as we have come to expect, the Cuomo administration is slow walking the release of these vital COVID-related data that would provide a more complete picture of how the state handled the pandemic,” said Tim Hoefer, president and CEO of the Empire Center. “New Yorkers deserve to know the truth, and their policymakers need access to these data in order to better prepare for future public health emergencies.”

Much of the information the Empire Center is seeking—such as detailed statistics on testing, hospitalizations and deaths—would come from the same databases the Cuomo administration uses for daily progress reports. Such data could be released immediately.

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.

A full tracker of submitted COVID-related FOIL requests can be found here. For more analysis of the Cuomo administration’s FOIL responses, see this blog post.

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

NY’s First COVID Wave Hit Weeks Earlier Than First Reported 

New York City’s first coronavirus wave has emerged as one of the deadliest of the entire global pandemic, revealing critical weaknesses in the state’s public health defenses. 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

A Year Later, Arbeeny Family Support Still Critical to Promoting Government Transparency

The Arbeeny family and the Empire Center are celebrating a year of partnership in remembrance of Norman Arbeeny, who passed away two years ago today after contracting COVID-19 in a Brooklyn nursing home. 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

An Open Letter to Lt. Gov. Kathy Hochul

As an organization committed to openness in government, we welcome your commitment to leading a fully transparent administration Read More

New Public Authority Payroll Data Now Posted at SeeThroughNY 

2020 payroll data for a total of 79,146 employees at 331 different New York State public authorities is now posted at, the Empire Center’s transparency website. Read More

Empire Center Appeals COVID FOIL Request Delays

Empire Center has appealed four delayed Freedom of Information Law requests pertaining to state COVID-19 data Read More

Empire Center Recognized for Exposing NY Nursing Home Coverup

In recognition of the importance of government transparency, the Empire Center has been selected as a finalist for the for its role in exposing the coverup of thousands of COVID-related deaths among New York’s elderly population. In the thick of the Read More