In further compliance with a court order obtained by the Empire Center, the Health Department has provided data on an additional 647 suspected pandemic deaths in New York nursing homes.

The dates and location of those deaths—involving nursing home residents with “presumed” COVID-19 infections who died in hospitals—had been omitted from the department’s initial data release on Feb. 10, which covered more than 14,000 deaths in nursing homes and assisted living facilities.

On Feb. 12, at the request of the Empire Center, the department turned over the additional information on those 647 presumed pandemic fatalities, which will be added to the center’s database.

Still to be resolved is another category that was missing from the Feb. 10 release: the deaths of almost 1,000 residents of so-called “other adult-care facilities.”

At issue is the technical distinction between “adult-care facilities,” which provide non-medical support to their residents, and a sub-category of that group known as “assisted living facilities.”

The Empire Center’s FOIL request of Aug. 3 sought records of “COVID-19-related deaths of residents of nursing homes and assisted living facilities.” Throughout most of the pandemic, however, the state reported deaths in all adult-care facilities as a single group.

This changed on the weekend of Feb. 6—six months after the Empire Center’s FOIL and shortly after O’Connor’s order was issued—when the department divided its reporting on adult-care facilities into two smaller groups: “assisted living facilities” and “other adult-care facilities.” When the department released data in response to the court order on Feb. 10, the first group was included and the second was not.

Since there was no reason to believe that the Empire Center wanted a portion of adult-care facilities excluded, we believe this omission was unwarranted under Justice O’Connor’s order.

The center has requested further detail on COVID deaths in “other adult care facilities” and is awaiting DOH’s response.

The updated information has been added to the Empire Center’s database of nursing home fatalities, available here. A full timeline of the Empire Center’s FOIL request process and lawsuit can be found here.

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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