Almost 11 weeks have passed since FingerLakes1.com’s initial Freedom of Information Law request for key documentation connected to COVID-19 response and a pair of troubled nursing homes in Ontario County. To date, the newsroom has only received four documents, which had already been made public by the state’s Department of Health.
The wait continues as Ontario County failed to meet its own self-declared deadline of Friday, September 11th. The FOIL was originally filed with Ontario County before the Fourth of July weekend.
With a simple Google search, three of the four documents that were presented to FingerLakes1.com this Friday are in-fact easily accessible on the NYSDOH’s website:
- The Health Advisory: COVID-19 Cases in Nursing Homes and Adult Care Facilities – March 13, 2020
- The Health Advisory: Respiratory Illness in Nursing Homes and Adult Care Facilities in Areas of Sustained Community Transmission of COVID-19 – March 21, 2020
- Protocols for Essential Personnel to Return to Work Following COVID-19 Exposure or Infection – March 28, 2020
But there should have been many more documents produced aside from these ones, according to Ontario County Assistant Attorney Matthew Turetsky.
In an email dated Friday, September 4th from Turetsky, who has directly overseen the request initially explained, “The documents are still under review from my office. I am anticipating completion next week.”
He had hoped for the request to be completed in its entirety by this Friday, but that did not happen.
Instead he shared four documents yesterday on September 11th, all of which were health advisory notices from the state’s Department of Health and dated from March.
These documents did not directly pertain to any of the specific private email correspondences between Ontario County Public Health officials and employees that have been sheltered since the initial request made back on June 30th.
Turetsky, who admittedly had been in possession of all of the emails and other related documents for the FOIL request since Friday, August 21st has not still finished redacting those yet and “are still under review,” in his own words.
“We are still reviewing those documents to ensure private health information is protected while also fulfilling our obligation to provide access to public documents,” Turetsky wrote in the email on Friday.
Even though Turetsky seemed largely convinced that the FOIL request would be finalized in its entirety, he now anticipates that it will take yet another two weeks to produce those same documents.
After failing to meet his own deadline, he has pushed the timeline back even further to Friday, September 25th.
Since the initial request had been filed with the county, 75-days have already passed, of which were 54 business days.
Editor’s Note: Read the full-email from Ontario County Assistant Attorney Matthew Turetsky received on September 11th below.
“Attached please see documents related to your FOIL Request. There are other documents related to your request that are still under review. As I indicated on the phone, part of our review process is to redact private health information and other information that is protected by State and Federal law. Since your request is for records relating to Long Term Care facilities and COVID-19, the majority of the documents requested contain a significant amount of private health information. We are still reviewing those documents to ensure private health information is protected while also fulfilling our obligation to provide access to public documents. I anticipate this review process to take two additional weeks, with us providing the documents by September 25.”