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The Department of Justice is demanding detailed information from a group of four governors who may have wrongly caused the death of the elderly and vulnerable living in nursing homes. The Department of Justice is giving the governors two weeks to answer a set of pointed questions.
Wednesday, August 26, 2020
Department of Justice Requesting Data From Governors of States that Issued COVID-19 Orders that May Have Resulted in Deaths of Elderly Nursing Home Residents
Data will help inform whether the Department of Justice will initiate investigations under the Civil Rights of Institutionalized Persons Act (CRIPA) regarding New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Michigan’s response to COVID-19 in public nursing homes
Today the Justice Department requested COVID-19 data from the governors of states that issued orders which may have resulted in the deaths of thousands of elderly nursing home residents. New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and Michigan required nursing homes to admit COVID-19 patients to their vulnerable populations, often without adequate testing.
For example, on March 25, 2020, New York ordered: “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.”
“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,” said Assistant Attorney General for Civil Rights Division Eric Dreiband. “We must ensure they are adequately cared for with dignity and respect and not unnecessarily put at risk.”
According to the Centers for Disease Control, New York has the highest number of COVID-19 deaths in the United States, with 32,592 victims, many of them elderly. New York’s death rate by population is the second highest in the country with 1,680 deaths per million people. New Jersey’s death rate by population is 1,733 deaths per million people – the highest in the nation. In contrast, Texas’s death rate by population is 380 deaths per million people; and Texas has just over 11,000 deaths, though its population is 50 percent larger than New York and has many more recorded cases of COVID-19 – 577,537 cases in Texas versus 430,885 cases in New York. Florida’s COVID-19 death rate is 480 deaths per million; with total deaths of 10,325 and a population slightly larger than New York.
The Department of Justice’s Civil Rights Division 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 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.
On March 3, 2020, the Attorney General announced the Justice Department’s National Nursing Home Initiative. This is a comprehensive effort by the department, led by the Elder Justice Initiative and in strong partnership with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services that uses every available tool to pursue nursing homes that provide substandard care to their residents. As announced on April 10, 2020, the department is also investigating the Soldiers’ Home in Holyoke, Massachusetts, where COVID-19 has taken the lives of at least 76 residents. https://www.justice.gov/opa/pr/federal-investigation-conditions-nursing-home-veterans-massachusetts-announced
The data requests and Soldiers’ Home investigation 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.Attachment(s):
Here is one of the letters:
August 26, 2020
NYS State Capitol Building Albany, NY 12224
Dear Governor Cuomo:
I write to request information regarding COVID-19 and nursing homes run by, or for, the State of New York, as defined in more detail hereafter. The Civil Rights Division of the Department of Justice enforces the Civil Rights of Institutionalized Persons Act (CRIPA). See 42 U.S.C. § 1997. The Division is evaluating whether to open a CRIPA investigation of institutions “providing skilled nursing, intermediate or long-term care, or custodial or residential care” that are “owned, operated, or managed by, or provide services on behalf of [New York] or [a] political subdivision of [New York]” (“Public Nursing Homes”). To help us make this determination, the Division respectfully requests the following documents and information for each Public Nursing Home. Data should be provided on a Public Nursing Home-specific basis for each Public Nursing Home in the state.
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 COVID19 during the period the guidance or orders were in effect.
We have not reached any conclusions about this matter. In the Division’s many years of enforcing CRIPA, the good faith efforts of state, county, or local jurisdictions working with us have enabled us to resolve many matters amicably. We request the above information within 14 days. If you have any questions, please contact our office.