U.S. Attorney General William Barr and the Department of Justice announced this week that federal investigators are determined to find out whether Democratic governors in four states put elderly residents’ lives at risk during the COVID-19 pandemic.
According to a report by Fox News, the Justice Department is seeking data from the states as part of the probe into whether those statewide policies resulted in unnecessary deaths.
“Based on a confirmed or suspected diagnosis”
Among the most widely criticized state leaders in this regard has been Democratic New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, who implemented a policy requiring nursing homes to admit patients who had tested positive for the virus.
“No resident shall be denied re-admission or admission to [a nursing home] solely based on a confirmed or suspected diagnosis of COVID-19,” the March 25 order stated. “[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.”
Federal guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, meanwhile, stated that such residents should only be allowed to return to care facilities if they could be kept isolated from others.
Cuomo’s policy was subsequently reversed, but not before critics say thousands of lives were potentially endangered through exposure to the highly contagious virus.
In addition to New York, the Justice Department is also focused on policies implemented in Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and Michigan, all of which registered elevated rates of coronavirus-related deaths in nursing and long-term care facilities.
“Often without adequate testing”
“Today the Justice Department requested COVID-19 data from the governors of states that issued orders which may have resulted in the deaths of thousands of elderly nursing home residents,” the agency explained in a statement released this week.
According to the statement, the four states being reviewed “required nursing homes to admit COVID-19 patients to their vulnerable populations, often without adequate testing.”
As for Cuomo, he has downplayed any role his policies might have played in the state’s high number of nursing home deaths and dismissed any investigation by an outside panel as a partisan pursuit.
“In terms of a call for an independent review, Congress has done a number of hearings, the legislature is doing hearings,” said Cuomo’s secretary, Meissa DeRosa.
Even as coronavirus cases continue to mount across much of the U.S., Americans can take comfort in the knowledge that the Trump administration is attempting to hold state leaders accountable for their responses.