DOJ Won’t Pursue Investigation Into COVID-19 Nursing Home Deaths in NY, MI, or PA

by Ashley Muñoz

The U.S. Department of Justice announced last week that they will not open an investigation into whether Democrat governors and their policies were to blame for thousands of deaths in state-run nursing homes and long-term care facilities.

In the midst of the coronavirus pandemic in 2020, Republican members of Congress requested that the Department of Justice look into whether mandates that forced COVID-19 patients back into nursing homes worsened the death toll.

In June 2020, Rep. Steve Scalise, R-La., along with four other Republican members on the Select Subcommittee of the Coronavirus Crisis, sent letters to the governors of New York, Michigan, and Pennsylvania. The letters sought information into the science behind the decision to mandate nursing homes and long-term care facilities to admit untested and contagious COVID-19 patients from hospitals.

In a July 23 response letter addressed to Scalise, Deputy Assistant Attorney General Joe Gaeta, noted that the Justice Department would not open a Civil Rights Institutionalized Persons Act (CRIPA) investigation into the states in question.

“We have reviewed the information provided by these states along with additional information available to the Department,” Gaeta wrote. “Based on that review, we have decided not to open a CRIPA investigation of any public nursing facility within New York, Pennsylvania, or Michigan at this time.”

Scalise issued a scathing statement condemning the lack of justice for patients and their families.

“It is outrageous that the Department of Justice refuses to investigate the deadly ‘must admit’ orders issued by governors in New York, Pennsylvania, and Michigan that resulted in the deaths of thousands of senior citizens,” said Scalise. “Where is the justice for nursing home victims and their grieving families? These deadly orders contradicted the CDC’s guidance, and needlessly endangered the most vulnerable among us to the deadly COVID-19 virus.”

House GOP conference chair Elise Stefanik, R-Ny., directed blame toward Democrat leadership. “This decision from President Biden’s Department of Justice makes President Biden complicit in the criminal corruption scandal and coverup of deaths of thousands of vulnerable seniors,” she tweeted.

Even though one study, conducted by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Inspector General, concluded that the effect of COVID-19 on nursing home residents was devastating.

The research found that two in five Medicare beneficiaries in nursing homes were diagnosed with either COVID-19 or likely COVID-19 in 2020 and almost 1,000 more beneficiaries died per day in April 2020 than in April 2019.

About half of Black, Hispanic, and Asian beneficiaries in nursing homes had or likely had COVID-19, and 41 percent of White beneficiaries did. It was determined that the overall mortality in nursing homes increased to 22 percent in 2020 from 17 percent in 2019.

Understanding the pandemic’s effect on nursing home residents is necessary if tragedies like this are to be avoided in the future. Although we may never know the exact number of deaths that resulted from these questionable mandates, we do know that overall, 22 percent of nursing home residents died in 2020, nearly one-third higher than the 17 percent who died in 2019.

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