The Department of Justice this week sent letters to the governors of New York, Michigan, Pennsylvania, and New Jersey demanding they provide data about COVID deaths in nursing homes.
The letter, issued during the Republican National Convention, is the first step of an investigation that seeks to determine whether restrictions issued by state governors were “responsible for the deaths of nursing home residents.”
On March 25th, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo announced that no residents would be denied admission or re-admission to nursing homes even if they showed symptoms of or tested positive for COVID. He also blocked nursing homes from requiring most incoming patients to take a COVID test.
The controversial mandate was intended to create space in hospitals, but makes no sense considering the presence of a US Navy hospital ship off the coast of New York and the field hospital set up inside the Javits Center. Even at the pandemic’s peak, New York and other states did not run out of hospital beds or ICUs.
When Governor Cuomo finally lifted the restrictions in May, more than 6,000 COVID-positive patients had been admitted to the state’s nursing homes.
Even so, Cuomo continues to claim that his policies did not exacerbate nursing home infections and portrays the state as having a low COVID death rate in long-term care facilities. “Look at the basic facts where New York is versus other states,” Cuomo said on Monday. “You look at where New York is as a percentage of nursing home deaths, it’s all the way at the bottom of the list.”
Keep in mind that Cuomo’s administration only counts COVID deaths that occurred on nursing home property. It does not count deaths that occurred after a nursing home patient was transferred to a hospital. Based on New York’s number of cases and the nursing home death rate in other states, we can infer a nursing home death toll of more than 11,000.
Other high-profile Democrats have blamed nursing home deaths in New York and New Jersey on asymptomatic staff and visitors, nursing homes’ failure to control the spread of infection, and facilities’ misinterpretation of restrictions and rules.
In addition to seeking the number and cause of nursing home deaths, the DOJ investigation will address previous complaints regarding inadequate staffing and enforcement, abuse and neglect, and funding.
“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,” explains DOJ spokesperson Eric Dreiban. “We must ensure they are adequately cared for with dignity and respect and not unnecessarily put at risk.”
This is a political move by the Trump Administration intended to counter the liberal narrative that Trump is personally responsible for state-level decisions about COVID. Governor Cuomo made a stupid decision that likely killed thousands of elderly. He must be held responsible and the political message is a bonus.
The state of New York has suffered more COVID deaths than any other state (32,592) and has the second-highest death rate (1,680 per million) after New Jersey (1,733 per million).