DOJ seeks data on nurs­ing-home deaths in 4 Demo­crat-led states

Chicago Sun-Times - - NATION/WORLD - BY BERNARD CONDON

— 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.

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