ALBANY, N.Y. (NEWS10) — After several months, the New York State Department of Health has disclosed more COVID-19 nursing home data asked for by the Empire Center for Public Policy. The release came after a judge ordered last week that the state had five business days to respond to the Empire Center’s Freedom of Information Law request.
“We had hearings back in August. The [Health] Commissioner cut us short after two hours of testimony. Six months after demanding answers, we’re finally getting some information, but that’s really only because of a court challenge and the success of the Empire Center,” said Republican Assemblyman Kevin Byrne.
In a statement the Empire Center said:
“The department should have been disclosing these numbers all along, and certainly should have provided them upon request—not just from Empire Center, but from legislators, reporters and members of the public.”
The data released Wednesday on the Empire Center’s website includes presumed and confirmed COVID-19 deaths at facilities and confirmed out of facility deaths. But, the Center notes, the records provided “do not fully account for the deaths of some 600 residents that occurred outside of the long-term care facilities, most often in hospitals, in which the COVID-19 diagnosis was presumed rather than confirmed.” While the Center said it received a summary of those deaths, it says the dates were not provided.
In addition to the data, Commissioner Howard Zucker also released a long-awaited response to lawmakers about “outstanding” nursing home questions. In a joint statement, Democrat Senate Committee Chairs Rachel May, Gustavo Rivera, and James Skoufis said:
“While we appreciate that our letter from August 2020 has finally been answered and, two weeks ago, nursing home data was released, it is unacceptable that it took so long.”
The Democrat Committee Chairs also met with Cuomo Administration officials Wednesday night to discuss the issue. Assembly Republican Leader Will Barclay noted that Republicans weren’t invited.
“That seems pretty partisan to me. It seems like they’re circling the wagon and trying to get their story straight,” he said.
Republicans have continued their push to subpoena the Department of Health. Meanwhile, Democrats have called the subpoena issue “political.”