The US Justice Department is mulling civil rights investigations of four Democrat-run states whose governors forced elder care homes to take in Covid-19 patients, potentially contributing to thousands of deaths.
The governments of New York, New Jersey, Michigan, and Pennsylvania have been ordered to turn over Covid-19 data to the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division as the agency weighs whether to pursue the probes, according to a statement released on Wednesday. Investigations would be launched under the Civil Rights of Institutionalized Persons Act (CRIPA), a law meant to protect the rights of those living in state-run nursing homes.
“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 statement reads, while acknowledging the requests themselves do not constitute “accusations of fault or wrongdoing.” States have two weeks to provide the data.
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All four states’ Democratic governors infamously required care homes to admit patients from hospitals without testing them for Covid-19, despite knowing that the virus could – in the now-immortal words of New York Governor Andrew Cuomo – spread through the facilities “like fire through dry grass.”
As public outcry grew with awareness of the NY governor’s order, Cuomo tried to blame virus-stricken care homes for not disobeying him and refusing Covid-19-positive patients. The order itself was even stealthily deleted from the New York healthcare website amid the outrage.
While Cuomo has tried to defend his policies by arguing New York actually had a lower percentage of deaths in nursing homes than other states, recently-released federal statistics suggest the state dramatically undercounted its care home fatalities by omitting residents who died in hospitals from the totals. While the official tally of 6,600 care home deaths is already the highest in the nation, an AP report earlier this month suggested the real number may be as much as 65 percent higher.
Pennsylvania Health Secretary Rachel Levine was urged to resign in May after it emerged that she had moved her own mother out of an elder care facility at the start of the pandemic even while pushing the same killer policy mandating care homes take coronavirus-positive patients. Over two-thirds of Pennsylvania’s Covid-19 deaths have occurred in such facilities.
Many, including Republican congressman Steve Scalise, hailed the data request as “HUGE” proof of an imminent reckoning for the Democrats.
🚨 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
— Spay & Neuter the Media (@k_ovfefe2) August 26, 2020
However, others cried politics, noting no Republican governors were being asked for their state’s coronavirus data and blaming Trump for the deaths.
Department of Justice should be talking to Trump’s buddy Ron DeSantis about the orders he gave that have resulted in thousands of lost lives in Florida. But that won’t happen, because William Barr is a partisan hack.
— Kevin Bailey (@KevBaile) August 26, 2020
Can you believe this bullshit — DOJ investigating nursing home deaths. Why isn’t Barr looking into the thousands of deaths caused by Trump Admin’s incompetence & withholding of life-saving COVID supplies. This is what a “witch hunt” looks like. How dare they!
— Just in Time 🇺🇸 (@sundayschild22) August 26, 2020
The Justice Department launched a crusade against substandard nursing home care in March dubbed the National Nursing Home Initiative, pledging to step up civil and criminal investigations of elder care facilities that mistreat or neglect their residents.
However, the project was quickly eclipsed by the coronavirus pandemic, which has sickened over five million Americans and contributed to the deaths of over 179,000, according to data collected by Johns Hopkins University.
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