US Justice Department Mulling Probe of COVID-19 Deaths at Nursing Homes

The U.S. Justice Department announced Wednesday that it is considering investigating four states over rules requiring nursing homes to take in COVID-19 patients, saying the mandates may have led to the deaths of thousands of elderly patients.The four states — New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Michigan — are all led by Democratic governors. Republican lawmakers and other critics have long claimed that the rules have caused disproportionately high numbers of deaths at long-term care facilities in those states.In separate letters to the governors of the four states, Assistant Attorney General Eric Dreiband requested a wide range of information, from the number of people who were admitted to nursing homes after contracting COVID-19 to the number of fatalities at these facilities.More than 40% of the nearly 180,000 COVID-19 deaths in the United States are linked to nursing homes, according to a New York Times analysis.In New York, Governor Andrew Cuomo faced criticism over an order issued in March that required nursing homes to accept coronavirus-infected patients.“No resident shall be denied readmission or admission to (a nursing home) solely based on a confirmed or suspected diagnosis of COVID-19,” Cuomo’s March 25 order read.In Hammonton, New Jersey, EMTs load a patient into an ambulance outside of the Hammonton Center for Rehabilitation and Healthcare one of numerous nursing homes to have staffing shortages, May 19, 2020.Under pressure, he changed the order in May, saying only patients testing negative could be sent to nursing homes.Now the Justice Department said it is looking into whether to open investigations under a federal law governing the civil rights of nursing home residents.“The Civil Rights Division seeks to determine if the state orders requiring admission of COVID-19 patients to nursing homes is responsible for the deaths of nursing home residents,” the Justice Department said in a statement.VOA is seeking comments from spokespersons for the governors of New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Michigan.


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