Cuomo Still Refusing to Disclose Total Number of Coronavirus Nursing Homes Deaths
Another nine weeks and five days to comply with the legal request
New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s administration is refusing to release the total number of nursing home coronavirus deaths until March at the earliest, a watchdog group reported.
The state Health Department claimed in a letter to the Empire Center for Public Policy that it required another nine weeks and five days to comply with the legal request for a full accounting of nursing homes deaths.
It claimed the reason was “because the records potentially responsive to your request are currently being reviewed for applicable exemptions, legal privileges, and responsiveness.”
The FOIL request was submitted by the Empire Center on Aug. 3, seeking the total number of COVID-19 nursing homes fatalities.
The state Health Department is only reporting residents who physically died in nursing homes, but not the ones who died after being sent to hospitals for medical care.
Over 8,201 residents died in nursing homes, the state reported.
But many of the unreported deaths, such as those who were ill and died in the hospitals, could swell into the thousands, according to the Empire Center’s Bill Hammond.
“The state is stonewalling — plain and simple,” Hammond said in an interview Wednesday night.
“This would be like the New York City Police Department reporting homicides on weekdays and not weekends.”
Hammond said it is accessible to count nursing home deaths because the state’s reporting system asks nursing homes for a count of residents who died after being transferred.
An insider in the nursing home industry said he was baffled by the delay.
“The DOH has minute-by-minute data of nursing home deaths. The state’s delayed response defeats the purpose of the Freedom of Information Law,” the source said.
DOH records access officer Rosemarie Hewig said in the Jan. 13 response to the Empire Center’s Freedom of Information Law request:
“Please be advised this Office is unable to respond to your request by the date previously given to you because the records potentially responsive to your request are currently being reviewed for applicable exemptions, legal privileges, and responsiveness."
Hewig did not rule additional delays, which could be months.
“We estimate that this Office will complete its process by March 22, 2021. The
Department will notify you in writing when/if the responsive materials are available for release or if the time needed to complete your request extends beyond the above date,” she said.
DOH spokesman Gary Holmes said, “We’re busy managing a pandemic response and vaccination distribution plan.”
Hammond, in a blog post, said:
“It could not be more clear that the state is illegally hiding basic information about a public health crisis."
"The department’s excuses are an insult to the intelligence of every New Yorker, and the Cuomo administration’s stonewalling makes a mockery of the public’s right to know."
"It’s increasingly evident that the state will not release these records until compelled to do so by the courts.”
Cuomo has faced massive criticism for his nursing home policies during the pandemic.
In July, Neon Nettle reported Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) called for Cuomo to be impeached for his policies that led to nursing home deaths in the city.
"The people we are lauding are actually making catastrophic decisions," Paul said on Fox News's "Rundown" podcast.
"I think Gov. Cuomo should be impeached for the disastrous decision he made to send patients with coronavirus back to nursing homes," Paul added.
"Virtually half his people who died were in nursing homes," Paul continued.