Today, the Justice Department requested data from the governors of states that issued orders that may have resulted in the deaths of thousands of elderly nursing home residents. New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and Michigan required nursing homes to add Wuhan coronavirus patients to their vulnerable populations, often without adequate testing.
Accordingly, the Justice Department is evaluating whether to initiate investigations under the federal Civil Rights of Institutionalized Persons Act (CRIPA), which protects the civil rights of persons in state-run nursing homes, among others. The Civil Rights Division, under the direction of Eric Dreiband, seeks to determine whether state orders requiring admission of coronavirus patients to nursing homes are responsible for the deaths of nursing home residents.
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. We must ensure they are adequately cared for with dignity and respect and not unnecessarily put at risk.
In letters to Governors Cuomo, Murphy, Wolf, and Whitmer, the DOJ asked for the following:
1. The number of Public Nursing Home residents, employees, other staff, guests, and visitors who contracted COVID-19, regardless of where such persons contracted COVID-19.
2. The number of Public Nursing Home residents, employees, other staff, guests, and visitors who died of COVID-19 including those who died in a Public Nursing Home or after being transferred to a hospital or other medical facility, hospice, home care, or any other location.
3. All State-issued guidance, directives, advisories, or executive orders regarding admission of persons to Public Nursing Homes, including those previously superseded, as well as the dates each such document was in effect.
4. The number of persons who were admitted to a Public Nursing Home from a hospital or any other facility, hospice, home care, or other location after testing positive for COVID-19 during the period the guidance or orders were in effect.
You can find the letters the DOJ sent to Governors Cuomo, Murphy, Wolf, and Whitmer at the bottom of this press release. As the release says, “the data requests are not accusations of fault or wrongdoing by the states or any other individual or entity, and the department has not reached any conclusions about these matters.”
I will try to keep readers posted about the responses of the four governors to this data request. Whitmer and Cuomo have already called the requests transparently political. But nothing will be gained politically if the data requested by the DOJ show that these governors and their underlings acted responsibly and in compliance with federal law. It seems that Whitmer and Cuomo fear the data will show the opposite.
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