The Department of Justice will not launch a civil investigation into the Covid-19 response in state nursing homes in New York, Pennsylvania, and Michigan, despite the fact that the department was looking into whether policies requiring Covid-19 patients to be admitted to the facilities during the pandemic may have contributed to deaths.
The news was delivered in a letter to GOP Rep. Steve Scalise, who, along with other Republicans, accused Democrat New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo of covering up Covid-19-related deaths in nursing homes in his state.
Cuomo has denied any wrongdoing, but the US attorney’s office in Brooklyn is investigating the state’s handling of data related to deaths in long-term care facilities.
After reviewing information provided by the states and other available information, the Justice Department “decided not to open a CRIPA (Civil Rights of Institutionalized Persons Act) investigation of any public nursing facility within New York, Pennsylvania, or Michigan at this time,” according to a letter obtained by CNN on Friday.
In October 2020, the Justice Department confirmed that it began an investigation into two facilities in New Jersey.
A spokeswoman for the Justice Department told CNN that the department would not comment on anything other than what was written in the letter. Cuomo’s office did not respond to CNN’s request for comment, and messages left with the other governors’ offices were not returned on Saturday.
Scalise, the chairman of the House Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Crisis, described the Justice Department’s decision as “outrageous” on Friday.
“Grieving families deserve answers and accountability. It’s unconscionable that (President Joe) Biden’s Department of Justice refuses to investigate the deadly actions that went against (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s) medical guidance taken in these states,” Scalise said in a statement.
Rep. Elise Stefanik of New York, the House’s No. 3 Republican, called the decision “shameful” and demanded an investigation by the Justice Department’s inspector general.
Last August, the Trump administration’s Justice Department requested Covid-19 data from the four states that had issued orders requiring Covid-19 patients to be admitted to nursing homes, claiming that this “may have resulted” in nursing home residents’ deaths.
Cuomo, who was widely praised in Democratic circles for his early pandemic leadership, has since been the subject of intense scrutiny over his administration’s guidance on Covid-19 and nursing homes.
To free up hospital beds, his administration issued an advisory in March 2020 prohibiting nursing homes from refusing to admit patients solely on the basis of a confirmed or suspected Covid-19 diagnosis.
According to a January report from the state attorney general, the directive “may have put residents at increased risk of harm in some facilities.” The attorney general also discovered that some nursing homes across the state failed to implement proper infection control measures and failed to isolate Covid-19 patients.