DOJ Takes Aim at Nursing Home Deaths

DOJ Takes Aim at Nursing Home Deaths

( – In four Democratic Governor-led states, COVID-19 deaths were disproportionately aimed at the elderly in nursing homes. On Wednesday, August 26, the US Department of Justice (DOJ) said, in a sharply worded letter, it wants to know why, demanding answers from Michigan, New Jersey, New York, and Pennsylvania.

The Civil Rights Division of the DOJ said it’s investigating if these states violated the civil rights of nursing home residents. For months, allegations have swirled that senior citizens who were diagnosed with COVID-19 were forced by the governors to leave hospitals and return to their state-run care facilities. Once in the facilities, the virus became deadly as it spread among the vulnerable population without discrimination.

New York has reported more than 6,500 nursing home deaths through August 26. In New Jersey and Pennsylvania, each reported more than 7,000 deaths in nursing homes. According to the DOJ, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) said New Jersey had the highest death rate by the population at 1,733 per million. New York’s death rate was the second-highest at 1,680 deaths per million people. The memo contrasted the death rate with Texas, which is 380 deaths per million despite its population being 50% larger than New York’s.

DOJ Determining if Investigations Are Warranted

In the letter suggests that an investigation against the governors may already be underway, the DOJ cited Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s order on March 25, 2020. The executive order, as quoted by the DOJ, says, in part:

“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 went on to affirm that the government has a responsibility to protect society’s most vulnerable members. It went even further by stating that seniors ought to be cared for with “dignity and respect and not be put unnecessarily at risk.”

The letter said the information provided by the states would determine if the DOJ initiates an investigation under the federal Civil Rights of Institutionalized Persons Act (CRIPA).

Governors Respond

In a joint statement by Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer (D) and Cuomo, they dismissed the request. They accused the DOJ of acting out of partisan interests on behalf of Republicans during a national election. New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy (D) added he believed the DOJ is politically motivated as well.

Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf (D) has not made a statement. However, his administration said they also believe the DOJ’s request for the information is politically motivated. Nonetheless, Pennsylvania officials said they are reviewing the request and will turn over whatever documents the DOJ needs.

By Don Purdum, Freelance Contributor

Copyright 2020,