DOJ asks governors about coronavirus orders that may have resulted in nursing home deaths
The Justice Department (DOJ) on Wednesday requested data from four governors on their orders requiring nursing homes to admit coronavirus patients.
“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,” he added.
The department requested data from Govs. Andrew Cuomo (D) of New York, Phil Murphy (D) of New Jersey, Tom Wolf (D) of Pennsylvania and Gretchen Whitmer (D) of Michigan.
New York, which has more deaths from the virus than any other state and became coronavirus hotspot at the start of the pandemic, issued its order on March 25.
The order from Cuomo reads, “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.”
The DOJ’s Civil Rights Division is assessing whether to investigate possible violations of the Civil Rights of Institutionalized Persons Act, according to the announcement.
“The Civil Rights Division seeks to determine if the state orders requiring admission of COVID-19 patients to nursing homes is responsible for the deaths of nursing home residents,” the DOJ said.
House Minority Whip Steve Scalise (R-La.) called the announcement “huge” in a tweet Wednesday afternoon, saying, “They won’t get away with this.”
HUGE → @TheJusticeDept is demanding data from Cuomo and the other Democrat governors who forced COVID patients into nursing homes.
Investigations into their deadly orders could be coming under the Civil Rights of Institutionalized Persons Act.
They won’t get away with this.
— Steve Scalise (@SteveScalise) August 26, 2020
Republicans and anti-institutionalization advocates have both frequently blasted Cuomo’s response to the virus in particular. Cuomo has called the criticism politically motivated, dismissing it as a “political charade.”
However, Cuomo and Whitmer both pushed back on the DOJ’s request, calling it a “nakedly partisan deflection.”