ALBANY, N.Y. (WTEN) — Gov. Andrew Cuomo has five business days to respond to a FOIL request lawsuit and release data on COVID-19 in nursing homes, the New York Supreme Court has ruled.
The lawsuit, which was filed by the Empire Center for Public Policy and Senator Jim Tedisco seeks the release of Health Emergency Response Data System (HERDS) data regularly submitted to Department of Health (DOH) by facilities throughout the state.
In January, the Attorney General’s office released a report criticizing how the state had been reporting nursing home deaths during the pandemic.
The report placed blame on Governor Andrew Cuomo and Health Commissioner Dr. Howard Zucker, while claiming nursing home deaths had been undercounted by as much as 50%.
Senator Tedisco, who filed an amicus brief to the Empire Center for Public Policy’s lawsuit against the DOH in September, released the following statement on Wednesday:
“Clearly the best disinfectant is sunlight. Governor Cuomo’s coronavirus cover-up is crumbling down. Last week, the Attorney General issued a scathing report that begun to lift the Cuomo Administration’s veil of secrecy that was hiding the real number of nursing home residents who died from COVID-19.
It’s obvious that the Governor’s six-month cover-up and refusal to give us these numbers shows he felt they mattered so he could hide any blame. History has shown that the cover-up is often worse than what’s being covered-up. Sadly, a lack of transparency has been a hallmark of this Administration. I want to thank Justice O’Connor for her ruling that demonstrates that this nursing home data is public information and the people have a right to know what their government is doing.”
Senator Tedisco’s application to appear as “amicus curiae” on the lawsuit was also granted. This allows the senator to impartially offer information and other advice on the case to the court throughout proceedings.
The court also ruled the state is to pay the Empire Center for Public Policy’s legal fees.
In response to the ruling, the Department of Health has said they were already in the process of responding to the Empire Center’s request and updating their website with publically available information.
“With the preliminary audit complete, we were already in the process of responding to the their FOIL request, and updating DOH’s website with publicly available information,” said Gary Holmes, New York State Department of Health Spokesperson.