Attorney general rules identities and locations of nursing homes with COVID-19 outbreaks must be released

AUSTIN – In a strong ruling for open government, the Texas Attorney General’s Office has rejected most arguments presented by the Texas Health and Human Services Commission for concealing information on nursing home names and locations where COVID-19 outbreaks have occurred.

The attorney general ruling on July 6 required release of the bulk of information requested earlier this year by numerous organizations and individuals.

The non-profit Freedom of Information Foundation of Texas and others called on state and local officials to reveal the names and locations of nursing homes and long-term care facilities where cases and/or deaths from COVID-19 have been confirmed. The FOI Foundation sent a detailed letter to Health and Human Services Commission leaders and local officials pointing out that journalists and others requesting this information are not seeking to identify individual patients or their health information. Revealing the name and location of a long-term care home does not identify an individual resident.

The attorney general ruling agreed with most of these transparency arguments and only allowed certain information that is “highly intimate or embarrassing” and “not of legitimate concern to the public” to be withheld under common law privacy. However, that does not appear to be a significant amount of the information requestors sought.