The state Health Department is illegally withholding information about the number of nursing home residents who died of COVID-19 in hospitals so it can intentionally undercount fatalities and tout New York’s response to the pandemic, a new lawsuit charges.
The Empire Center for Public Policy, an Albany-based think tank, filed a Freedom of Information Law request for the data on Aug. 3 and was later told that it couldn’t have the records until Nov. 5, the court papers filed Friday allege.
The explanation given was that “a diligent search for responsive documents is still being conducted,” according to the Empire Center’s suit filed in Albany state Supreme Court.
But daily tallies of all nursing home residents who’ve died from the coronavirus, “both within nursing home facilities and elsewhere,” are contained in the state’s Health Emergency Response Data System, or HERDS, according to the suit.
The Empire Center says there’s “no reason” why the Health Department “hasn’t already disclosed the information” and accuses officials of “hiding it without justification.”
The Empire Center also alleges that the state’s official count of at least 6,600 COVID-19 deaths in nursing homes “omits potentially thousands of nursing home residents who died in hospitals after being transferred from their nursing homes.”