DOJ seeks data on nursing-home deaths in 4 Democrat-led states
— The Justice Department on Wednesday sent letters to the governors of New York and three other Democratic-led states, seeking data on whether they violated federal law by ordering public nursing homes to accept recovering COVID-19 patients from hospitals — actions that have been criticized for potentially fueling the spread of the virus.
Prosecutors said the fact-finding letters also sent to New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Michigan were aimed at determining whether the orders “may have resulted in the deaths of thousands of elderly nursing home residents.”
“We must ensure they are adequately cared for with dignity and respect and not unnecessarily put at risk,” Assistant Attorney General for Civil Rights Division Eric Dreiband said.
Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf said his office was reviewing the request. Spokespeople for New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer and New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy said the fact that all the states are led by Democrats and the timing of the move — in the midst of the Republican National Convention — spoke volumes about the political nature of the inquiry.
“Americans would all be better served if the Trump administration stopped the partisan games and focused on delivering a real plan to defeat COVID-19,” said Whitmer spokesperson Tiffany Brown.
The governors’ actions at the height of the pandemic were designed to ensure hospitals had enough bed space for the most serious COVID cases but were almost immediately criticized by nursing homes and relatives for potentially putting care home residents at risk.
Cuomo’s March 25 order, for example, specifically told homes they could not refuse to accept recovering COVID-19 patients from hospitals as long as the patients were “medically stable.” The order barred homes from even testing such patients to see if they still had the virus.
Long-term care facilities represent less than 1% of the U.S. population, but they account for 42% of the COVID-19 deaths, with more than 70,000 fatalities reported by the COVID Tracking Project.