The Department of Justice on Wednesday requested data from the governors of four states who issued orders requiring coronavirus-patients be accepted at nursing homes, potentially resulting in the unnecessary deaths of thousands of elderly patients.
The DOJ singled out Michigan, New Jersey, New York, and Pennsylvania for its policies, but focused heavily on New York, whose governor, Democrat Andrew Cuomo, has come under fire for the policy. On March 25, Cuomo’s health department issued an order saying: “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.”
“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 DOJ said in a statement.
In addition to New York’s nursing home mandate, the state also only counted coronavirus deaths that actually occurred in nursing homes as nursing home deaths. Patients who were transported to a hospital and died there of the coronavirus were not counted as nursing home deaths, even though they were infected in their previous care facility.
This resulted in New York reporting about 6,600 nursing home deaths due to the coronavirus, but as the Associated Press reported earlier this month, the number is likely much, much higher due to those being moved out of facilities to die in hospitals.
“New York’s coronavirus death toll in nursing homes, already among the highest in the nation, could actually be a significant undercount,” the AP reported. “Unlike every other state with major outbreaks, New York only counts residents who died on nursing home property and not those who were transported to hospitals and died there.”
Cuomo blamed everyone but his own administration for the nursing home deaths, including President Donald Trump, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, nursing home workers, and alleged greed on the part of nursing home facilities.
As for blaming the CDC, the agency guidance said facilities accepting coronavirus-positive patients must follow strict guidelines including separating patients. Cuomo’s mandate went into effect with little to no warning for nursing home facilities in the state, many of whom were ill-equipped to treat patients safely.
“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.”
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.”
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