DoJ Begins Investigating Nursing Home Corona Virus Deaths Under Civil Rights Law

NEW YORK – NOV 11, 2014: US vets wave American Flags as they stand on a parade float in the 2014 America’s Parade held on Veterans Day in New York City on November 11, 2014.

The Department of Justice on Wednesday said it had requested information from the governors of New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and Michigan to begin investigating whether a case could be made that they abrogated the civil rights of senior citizens in nursing homes who died from Corona Virus being introduced into their facilities because of the governors’ policies.

Eric Dreiband, Assistant Attorney General, Civil Rights Division, wrote each of the governors a letters, all published by the DoJ on their website.

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“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,” he said in a statement.

“We must ensure they are adequately cared for with dignity and respect and not unnecessarily put at risk.”

The investigations focus on the policies of New York Governor Andrew Cuomo, New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy, Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer and Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf.

Governor Cuomo and Governor Murphy were called out in the statement for hosting the highest deaths from the virus, with majority from their senior citizen populations.

The DoJ cited the New York law from March 25, 2020: “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 math is undeniable, the DoJ said:

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.

In May, Rep. Scott Perry, Pennsylvania’s Republican Congressmen from the 10th District and a 40-year Army Veteran, wrote to Health and Human Services Deputy Inspector General Gary Cantrell to demand that state Democrat Governor Tom Wolf also be brought to task.

On Twitter, Rep. Steve Scalise heralded the move as an important one.

The DoJ said its 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,” it said.

Only weeks before the start of the pandemic, Attorney General Will Barr, on March 3rd, announced a new National Nursing Home Initiative, a comprehensive effort by the department, led by the Elder Justice Initiative and the Department of Health and Human Services that uses every available tool to pursue nursing homes that provide substandard care to their residents.

In April, the DoJ said it was also investigating the Soldiers’ Home in Holyoke, Massachusetts, where at least 76 residents died from the virus.

In New York, Governor Cuomo said an internal investigation cleared his administration of any wrongdoing, although the perverse incentives favored the deaths.

As well as nursing homes being paid for taking in Corona Virus patients, the Governor’s budget may have benefited from a $6 billion savings from the thousands of deaths because of pension and Medicare costs no longer owed to the deceased.

To add insult to injury, the federally-provided hospital ship and convention centers converted to hospital beds could have been used for these exact patients, but remained empty. He was also accused of accepting a campaign donation from the lobby that defends the retirement home industry.

 

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