FOI Foundation of Texas calls on government health officials to identify nursing homes where COVID-19 is confirmed

Published 2:56 pm Wednesday, April 29, 2020

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AUSTIN – The Freedom of Information Foundation of Texas called on state and local officials Wednesday to reveal the names and locations of nursing homes where cases and/or deaths from COVID-19 have been confirmed.

The Texas Health and Human Services Commission and some local government health officials have refused to say which nursing homes have experienced coronavirus outbreaks, though they acknowledge numerous cases have been detected in these facilities.

“Accurate information about the spread of coronavirus is essential for Texans as they strive to understand the seriousness and scope of this pandemic,” said Kelley Shannon, executive director of the FOI Foundation. “Knowing which nursing homes are impacted is important as we try to protect the health of our families and our communities. It also contributes to effective public oversight of our government’s operations.”

The FOI Foundation sent a detailed letter to Health and Human Services Commission leaders and some local officials disputing their contention that federal or state law prevents the release of the names and locations of the nursing homes. The foundation’s letter points out that journalists and others requesting this information are not seeking the identity of individual patients or their health information. Revealing the name and location of a nursing home does not identify an individual resident.

Other states routinely identify nursing homes where COVID-19 has been confirmed.

There is no legal precedent for Texas to withhold what is clearly public information, the foundation’s letter states, adding that government officials “must not pretend that the public cannot be trusted to govern itself when provided with accurate highly relevant information.”

“Time is of the essence,” the letter states. “FOIFT respectfully requests that the HHSC fulfill its duties to Texas citizens and release the requested information now.”