On Wednesday, the Department of Justice (DOJ) formally requested COVID-19 data from Democrat governors who required nursing homes to admit patients who had previously tested positive for the disease caused by the Chinese coronavirus pandemic.
“Protecting the rights of some of society’s most vulnerable members, including elderly nursing home residents, is one of our country’s most important obligations,” Assistant Attorney General for Civil Rights Division Eric Dreiband said in a statement. “We must ensure they are adequately cared for with dignity and respect and not unnecessarily put at risk.”
The DOJ’s Civil Rights Division is considering launching investigations under the Civil Rights of Institutionalized Persons Act (CRIPA), which protects the civil rights of persons in state-run nursing homes, among other institutions. “The Civil Rights Division seeks to determine if the state orders requiring admission of COVID-19 patients to nursing homes [are] responsible for the deaths of nursing home residents.”
The DOJ cited Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s (D-N.Y.) order on March 25 that “no resident shall be denied re-admission or admission to [a nursing home] solely based on a confirmed or suspected diagnosis of COVID-19. [Nursing homes] are prohibited from requiring a hospitalized resident who is determined medically stable to be tested for COVID-19 prior to admission or readmission.”
According to a study of over 1,000 patients admitted to the hospital with the coronavirus in New York City, over 90 percent contracted the virus from close contact with an infected person, including sheltering at home or contained living situations like in nursing homes and jails.
The DOJ requested data from Michigan, New York, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania, each led by a Democrat governor. In June, House Republicans on the Select Committee on the Coronavirus Crisis sent five letters to the governors of those states and to Gov. Gavin Newsom (D-Calif.), also demanding data on the link between nursing home policy and coronavirus cases. Each other state issued an order similar to New York’s (California’s came on March 30, Michigan’s on April 15, New Jersey’s on March 31, and Pennsylvania’s on March 18).
The Democrat governors issued these orders in contrast to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) guidance that explicitly does “not direct any nursing home to accept a COVID-19 positive patient, if they are unable to do so safely.” Indeed, the guidance urges that “nursing homes should admit any individual that they would normally admit to their facility, including individuals from hospitals where a case of COVID-19 was/is present” only if the nursing home can follow” CDC guidance.
CMS Administrator Seema Verma also warned, “Under no circumstances should a hospital discharge a patient to a nursing home that is not prepared to take care of those patients’ needs.”
According to House Republicans in June, New York had suffered 6,360 nursing home coronavirus deaths, Michigan had suffered 2,297, California had suffered 2,560, Pennsylvania had suffered 4,268, and New Jersey had suffered 6,432. Each of these numbers represented between 25 percent and 68 percent of the state’s coronavirus deaths and a sizable chunk of each state’s nursing home population.
The DOJ press release noted that New York has the highest number of COVID-19 deaths in the United States at 32,592 victims, according to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC). New York’s death rate by population is 1,680 deaths per million, the second-highest in the country. New Jersey’s death rate by population is 1,733 deaths per million, the highest in the nation.
By contrast, just over 11,000 people have died from the coronavirus disease in Texas, even though Texas has 50 percent more people than New York. Texas only has 380 deaths per million people, less than a quarter of New York’s death rate. Florida, which also has a higher population than New York, also has a lower death rate at 480 deaths per million (10,325 in total).
Govs. Cuomo, Gretchen Whitmer (D-Mich.), Phil Murphy (D-N.J.), and Tom Wolf (D-Pa.) have much to answer for.
“Democrats failed our nursing home residents, plain and simple,” Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) declared in June. “Despite clear warnings about exposing nursing homes to this virus, some Democrat governors decided it made more sense to force nursing homes to take in coronavirus patients, which resulted in countless avoidable deaths. The American people deserve to know what informed and motivated these decisions so it doesn’t happen again.”
“The decision of several governors to ignore federal protocols and instead mandate COVID-positive patients be forced back to their nursing homes ended up being a death sentence for tens of thousands of our nation’s most vulnerable citizens,” Rep. Steve Scalise (R-La.), said in June.
The DOJ is right to look into this important question.
Gov. Cuomo has repeatedly defended his barbaric nursing home policy, saying, “older people, vulnerable people are going to die.”
Tyler O’Neil is the author of Making Hate Pay: The Corruption of the Southern Poverty Law Center. Follow him on Twitter at @Tyler2ONeil.
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