Hochul Has Only Partially Opened Door On Nursing Home Transparency

Gov. Kathy Hochul has done the right thing — quickly — in acknowledging the additional 12,000 COVID deaths in New York.

But it is only the first step in untangling the tangled web of what happened in the state’s nursing homes last year. Now that Hochul has shone a light on one of former Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s worst-kept secrets, it’s time for Hochul to allow a light to be shone on secrets that could help prevent thousands of deaths in the future by approving an Empire Center for Public Policy FOIL request denied by Cuomo’s Health Department on Cuomo’s final day in office.

“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,” Bill Hammond, Empire Center senior fellow, said in a statement.

The Empire Center has filed 60 Freedom of Information Law requests in hopes of revealing a clearer picture of the state’s COVID-19 response. Less than 10 have been granted.

Hochul has said she will be more transparent than Cuomo — though that isn’t really setting a high bar. If transparency is truly a hallmark of her administration, then the new governor will direct the state Health Department and other state agencies to release the records — if they exist — that have been requested by the Empire Center and other watchdog groups.

If Hochul wants people to trust the state when it comes to pandemic guidance, then the state must be open and honest with the public about missteps over the past year.


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