The Justice Department said it is probing four Democratic-led states that pushed nursing homes to admit new residents during the coronavirus, despite heightened risks to the elderly population from contracting COVID-19.
New York, New Jersey, Michigan and Pennsylvania have been under scrutiny for high mortality rates, particularly among the elderly.
The states all issued orders pushing nursing homes not to refuse new admissions even though there may have been warning signs of COVID-19. New York, for example, specifically banned testing for people being transferred from a hospital to a nursing home.
The Justice Department said it wants to know whether elderly persons’ civil rights were violated by the orders. The request for data is the precursor to a possible investigation.
Critics of the Democratic governors in the targeted states cheered what they saw as the first steps toward justice.
“These orders resulted in the deaths of tens of thousands of nursing home patients,” said Rep. Steve Scalise, the No. 2 Republican in the House of Representatives. “Grieving families affected by these orders must have answers about these terrible decisions that cost them their loved ones’ lives, and governors must be held responsible for their actions.”
In Michigan, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer has faced bipartisan criticism over her nursing home orders.
Michigan Rising Action, a conservative pressure group, said of 222 outbreaks in the state, 79 were in long-term care facilities.