Mayor Bill de Blasio blamed Gov. Andrew Cuomo for possible inaccuracies in COVID-19 testing data, but Hizzoner left unexplained the issue of data delays that prevented the release of Government information.
By Progress New York Staff
The U.S. Attorney’s Office for New York’s southern district, which received in 2018 a complaint charging Mayor Bill de Blasio (WFP-New York City) with a pattern or practise of violating open records laws, remained silent after the de Blasio administration restored missing data about COVID-19 testing following several days of omissions. Sources inside the U.S. Attorney’s Office refused to answer questions submitted in advance for this report.
Prior to today, the Coronavirus testing data had been last updated on Saturday, 20 March 2021. During the intervening days, the Agency Web site for NYC Health blamed New York State for data delays. The disappearance of the COVID-19 testing data took place after public high schools reopened and after the positivity results for some zip codes approached 15 per cent.
At a press conference today, Mayor de Blasio was asked about the missing data, and he replied that, “[T]he data issues have been resolved,” without explaining the data delays, according to the official transcript of the press conference. The mayor also questioned the accuracy of testing data reported by the administration of Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D-New York), saying, in relevant part, of the State’s COVID-19 information that, “[T]here might be political considerations in the data.”
The restoration of the City’s COVID-19 positivity data showed that on Sunday, over 9 per cent. of individuals receiving tests for the Coronavirus returned positive results. As reported by Progress New York, multiple zip codes in New York City reported positivity rates approaching 15 per cent before delays led to the suspension of data reporting by the NYC Health Web site. Last year, Mayor de Blasio had initially set 3 per cent. as the threshold for City-wide positivity test results that would trigger orders to close public schools. This year, Mayor de Blasio has yet to explain why positivity rates that are five times that initial threshold in some zip codes have not triggered at least some confinement orders. For this report, the City Hall press office did not answer a request for an explanation.
The COVID data gap came up at press conference today with @nycmayor. Dr. Chokshi said the problem has been "resolved," and NYC's COVID website will be "refreshed" today. No explanation of how or why it happened. Reporter @JuanMaBenitez asked if the state is "cooking the books."
— Susan Edelman (@SusanBEdelman) March 24, 2021
The Government routinely refuses to release embarrassing information, and when it does, Government officials increasingly question the veracity of Government data.
Under case law, Agencies lose credibility in the eyes of the Courts whenever records or information are withheld about “activities which, if disclosed, would publicly embarrass the agency.” See Ingle v. Dep’t of Justice, 698 F.2d 259, 267 (6th Cir.1983). Yet, there are no known probes or actions against Mayor de Blasio for numerous instances when his administration has reportedly acted in bad faith by withholding records or information that have been politically embarrassing for him. He has been accused in the press of micromanaging politically-sensitive FOIL Requests.
It took almost one year after nursing home residents began dying from the Coronavirus pandemic before the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Brooklyn opened a reported, preliminary inquiry into the Cuomo administration’s withholding of records about nursing home deaths, according to a bombshell report published by the Times Union. That probe had to be handled out of the Brooklyn Office, because the Manhattan Office was being headed by U.S. Attorney Audrey Strauss, who is the mother-in-law of Gov. Cuomo’s top political aide, Melissa DeRosa. Ms. DeRosa has admitted to withholding data from the U.S. Department of Justice.
The days that U.S. Attorney Strauss will remain heading the top Federal prosecutors’ office in Manhattan are numbered, now that Sen. Charles Schumer (D-New York) has nominated her replacement, Damian Williams. During her brief tenure atop SDNY, as the Manhattan Federal prosecutors’ office is known, U.S. Attorney Strauss showed remarkable racial insensitivity by referring to the New York Police Department as a partner, who she commends, at times calling them “outstanding,” in the time during the George Floyd-inspired protests against police brutality and systemic racism. She’s also countenanced violations of Government transparency that have led to a loss of confidence in Government. The City of New York and New York State were the subject of criticism over the disregard by Mayor de Blasio and Gov. Cuomo of Government data “showing that time was running out” during the onset of the Coronavirus pandemic, according to a report published by the New Yorker. Now, as then, politics has been allowed to determine public health policy, not science, and the consequence has been death.