RALEIGH – One of the mysteries swirling around the COVID-19 Pandemic Panic concerns the recording of deaths attributed to the disease caused by SARS-CoV2. How are they recorded? Are processes different than for other causes of death? Are deaths under-counted? Over-counted?
Well, the Cooper adminstration did the one thing that was sure to make this mystery even more intriguing and susceptible to conspiracy theory; they told county health departments NOT to comply with record requests for death certificates information, despite it being the law. Now nearly two dozen media outlets are suing the Cooper administration and his cabinet agencies for violating public records law.
From the N&O:
“[…] seeking the release of a list of records related to COVID-19 that the state had, so far, refused to provide.
The lawsuit names as defendants Gov. Roy Cooper and two of his Cabinet secretaries, Dr. Mandy Cohen, secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services, and Erik Hooks, secretary of the Department of Public Safety.
The complaint lists a total of 26 outstanding records requests — nine to DPS and 17 to DHHS — submitted by media outlets for records that could be helpful in reporting on COVID-19. All but one of the requests were submitted since the pandemic began.
Among the records listed in the lawsuit are: the state’s database of COVID-19 cases, with personal identifying information removed; the database maintained by the state office of Emergency Management to track requests for personal protective equipment and other supplies by hospitals and local governments; copies of reports of prison inspections conducted during the pandemic; communication between officials at DPS and DHHS; and communication from DHHS officials to local health departments.
Asked about the pending lawsuit during his press briefing on Thursday, Cooper said his office was committed to following the state’s Public Records Act, which requires production of all public records unless those records are specifically exempt by law. […]”
Cooper has said that he’s urging agencies to fulfill these requests ad soon as possible, but each unmet request is marked by excuses citing the extraordinary times and difficulty providing the information expeditiously.
Certainly there are bottlenecks and priorities when in a state of emergency, but transparency regarding the emergency itself, and all of the data associated with it, should be one of those top priorities.
The governor has
asked forced people to sacrifice their livelihoods; the least they can do is provide all relevant information so we can understand why and if it is warranted.
Otherwise, the refusal to fulfill requests like these becomes fodder for conspiracy theorists on both sides of the issues. Are they hiding deaths counts? Is it worse than they’re telling us? Are they exaggerating death counts? Is it not as bad as they’re telling us?
See how a little secrecy can create a lot of anxiety? Read more about the lawsuit to get COVID-19 records here.