The Department of Justice has formally requested the Governors of New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Michigan come clean about their COVID-19 nursing home policies. Those 4 states had exceptionally high mortality rates and each of them shared similar nursing home policies. The mixing of positive cases into sensitive nursing home populations is obviously a contributing factor to the deaths in those states.
Of all states, New Jersey has had the highest mortality rate in the country. With 1,733 deaths per million it’s followed closely by New York with 1,680 deaths per million. States without these policies have had drastically different turnouts with far lower mortality rates. Florida, for example, had a rate of just 480 deaths per million despite a much larger elderly population.
On March 25th New York issued the following order:
“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.”
Mixing a dangerous viral disease with then country’s most sensitive population is insanity. Temporary hospitals sat empty while the policy exposed many elderly and caused thousands of unnecessary deaths. Decisions to place the most infections with the highest risk demographic could be considered negligent homicide. A prosecutor could rightly ask, why a single positive case went to a nursing home while field hospitals sat empty.
Three days after the first coronavirus death Michigan’s nursing home association leader sent a letter to Whitmer saying empty facilities should be used as quarantine centers. Whitmer declined this advice. Instead the state created a system to infected residents were sent to isolated areas of nursing homes.
The Civil Rights Division of the US Department of Justice is considering whether or not to start a formal investigation of the policies that killed many. Investigations would be authorized by the Civil Rights of Institutionalized Persons Act (CRIPA) which is a set of defenses for people in nursing homes or similar institutions The Civil Rights Division is determining if those making the decisions were responsible for the deaths of nursing home residents.
A special investigation is being made into a site in Massachusetts called Soldier’s Home where 76 residents died from the virus. In March the Attorney General announced a special initiative to to pursue nursing homes that provide substandard care. These investigations are carried out under the Justice Department’s National Nursing Home Initiative.
Each year more than 90% of influenza deaths are in the elderly population. Critics of the Governor ask when poor decisions become criminal negligence. Someone can be accused of third-degree murder if they unintentionally cause someone else’s death while committing a dangerous act. Is sending positive patients into the highest-risk population segment negligence?
“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,”Assistant Attorney General for Civil Rights Division Eric Dreiband
This formal request for data supporting these decisions is an important step toward accountability. The decision to put positive virus cases into nursing homes with the most sensitive demographic is borderline negligent homicide. Taxpayer paid millions for field hospitals to be set up and for the USS Comfort to be sent to New York Harbor. Those resources sat empty while cases spread among nursing homes.