The U.S. Department of Justice has opted against investigating any of the Democrat governors who last year ordered nursing homes to accept residents who tested positive for COVID-19 against the recommendations of health groups.
Federal officials reviewed information they received from New York, Pennsylvania, Michigan, and New Jersey last year regarding the orders.
Based on the review, they’re not opening Civil Rights of Institutionalized Persons Act (CRIPA) investigations in the first three states, Joe Gaeta, deputy assistant attorney general, told Rep. Steve Scalise (R-La.) in a letter on July 23. The act enables the attorney general to initiate a case in court against a state or local government, or its employees or agents, when officials suspect or find that people in institutions owned or run by such a government have had their rights denied.
The Department of Justice opened a CRIPA probe into conditions at two nursing facilities operated by the state of New Jersey in October 2020 but has given no indication that it’s investigating Gov. Phil Murphy.
Scalise, the ranking member of the House Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Crisis, reacted strongly to the refusal to investigate Murphy or governors of the other states, all of whom are Democrats.
“It is outrageous that the Department of Justice refuses to investigate the deadly ‘must admit’ orders issued by governors in New York, Pennsylvania, and Michigan that resulted in the deaths of thousands of senior citizens. Where is the justice for nursing home victims and their grieving families?” he said in a statement.
“These deadly orders contradicted the CDC’s guidance, and needlessly endangered the most vulnerable among us to the deadly COVID-19 virus,” he said, referring to guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The CDC issued guidance in March 2020, before the orders were released, saying COVID-positive patients could be released from health care facilities to long-term care facilities, but if that happened, the facilities should be equipped with “adequate personal protective equipment supplies and an ability to adhere to infection prevention and control recommendations for the care of COVID-19 patients.”
“Preferably, the patient would be placed at a facility that has already cared for COVID-19 cases, in a specific unit designated to care for COVID-19 residents,” the guidance stated.
The orders in question were imposed by Cuomo and the others early in the COVID-19 pandemic. They informed nursing home operators that they could not turn away residents solely on the basis of a confirmed or suspected diagnosis of COVID-19.
Health groups such as The Society for Post-Acute and Long-Term Care Medicine warned against the orders, stating in a resolution in March 2020 that “admitting patients with suspected or documented COVID-19 infection represents a clear and present danger to all of the residents of a nursing home.”
Large percentages of deaths pinned to COVID-19 in the four states took place among nursing homes.
In Pennsylvania, 9,556 deaths have been among long-term care facility residents, according to state data. That’s approximately 34 percent of the state’s death toll.
Governors have insisted that the orders didn’t lead to more COVID-19 deaths among nursing homes and other long-term care facilities, which house groups that are most vulnerable to COVID-19, the disease caused by the CCP (Chinese Communist Party) virus, even as nursing home deaths were up by 32 percent last year.
The offices of Cuomo and Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf didn’t respond to requests for comment. Spokespersons for Murphy declined to comment. Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s office confirmed the receipt of a letter from the DOJ informing her that the state wouldn’t be investigated.