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State and Local Government Records Retention: Documenting the Government COVID-19 Response

The New York government response to the COVID-19 public health emergency – at both the state and local level – has resulted in an unprecedented level of documentation, as well as a unique opportunity to ensure the essential evidence of government activity and its impact on communities across the state is preserved and accessible for future generations.

The New York State Archives is authorized to identify the official records of government that possess sufficient historical value to warrant their continued preservation (ACAL § 57.05 & 57.27). Certain categories of records have generally been appraised as archival. In addition, certain records normally considered temporary, and eligible for disposal once their retention period has been met, may have enduring historical and research value. The categories listed below are not comprehensive but are likely maintained by many government entities. These may guide appraisal and retention decisions to ensure the essential evidence of government activities, decisions, and programs in response to the COVID-19 public health emergency is preserved and available in the future, subject to statutory restrictions on records access and disclosure. Where applicable, we have provided item numbers from the General Schedule for state agencies (GRS) and the local government schedule (LGS-1).

State Archives staff are available to help determine the long-term, archival value of both state agency and local government records. Contact Government Records Services at 518-474-6926 or recmgmt@nysed.gov for assistance.

  • Subject and correspondence files and other records of the chief executive and senior leadership, such as heads of state agencies and local government entities. [agency specific RDAs, LGS-1 471a]
     
  • Minutes, hearing records, and selected other records documenting open public meetings, including those of boards, trustees, or governing bodies. Records of internal meetings related to the government COVID-19 response may also have historical value as evidence of the government’s response to the pandemic [GRS item 90372; LGS-1 item 47]
     
  • Records of counsel's offices that document legal opinions, decisions having long-term precedential value, or the development of laws and regulations. [agency specific RDAs; LGS-1 item 29, 30]
     
  • Selected records of public relations, including news releases and publications that summarize government positions and response to the public health emergency. [GRS item 90336; LGS-1 item 68a]
     
  • Major administrative policies, plans, or studies, such as those that address operations or issues of critical agency or government functions, or address issues of public visibility such as the COVID-19 response. [GRS item 90202, 90203, & 90208; LGS-1 item 53a, 54, 74a, 75]
     
  • Records documenting public health response to a pandemic, including patient records, results of testing, and facility and testing site operations. [agency specific RDAs; LGS-1 item 729a, 733, 734, 737, 743, 744, 749a, 754b, 757a, 765, 792]
     
  • Records documenting emergency response and public safety, including responses to health threats to communities or health hazards in public facilities. [GRS item 90368; LGS-1 item 146, 925a, 926] 
     
  • Program-level correspondence and subject files that document significant policy and decision making or legal decisions related to the government response to the pandemic. [agency specific RDAS; LGS-1 item 53a]
     
  • Summary documentation of labor-management relations, including accommodations implemented as a result of the pandemic. [GRS item 90359; LGS-1 item 648a]