Over the past six months, government officials and journalists have exposed damning information suggesting that the administration of New York Governor Andrew Cuomo tried to lower the true death toll from the pandemic in the state’s nursing homes. State attorney general data revealed that New York’s public count of nursing home deaths may have underestimated deaths by as much as 50 percent, and the New York Times discovered efforts by Cuomo’s aides to prevent health officials from sharing that information with state legislators and the public. These movements coincided With a time when Cuomo was trying to sign a multi-million dollar contract for a book on his handling of the COVID crisis, capitalizing on the image he had cultivated as a hard-charging pandemic leadership hero when New York City was the Epicenter. of COVID in spring 2020.
On Friday, the Justice Department revealed that it has refused to further investigate what happened in New York.
In letters sent to various legislators, DOJ saying that it would not open a civil investigation into New York’s handling of the pandemic in nursing homes. In a letter to Rep. Lee Zeldin (RN.Y.), who plans to challenge the disputed three-term incumbent in New York’s gubernatorial race in 2022, the department said it had requested information from New York state last summer. . “We have reviewed the information provided,” wrote Assistant Deputy Attorney General Joe Gaeta. “Based on that review, we have decided not to open a [Civil Rights of Institutionalized Persons Act] research from any public nursing facility at this time. “
Meanwhile, New York’s handling of data on the death toll in nursing homes is the subject of a continuing investigation by the United States Attorney’s office in Brooklyn and by the FBI. Cuomo also faces an unrelated state investigation into allegations of sexual harassment, after nearly a dozen women filed charges against him this spring.
The DOJ also declined to open investigations into the response to the pandemic in nursing homes in Pennsylvania and Michigan.
Each of these three states had issued policies at the height of the first wave of COVID in the spring of 2020 that required nursing homes to admit COVID-19 patients, despite the lack of adequate testing and the high risk of severe COVID complications or death among nurses. elderly populations of households. These “mandatory admission” orders appeared as nursing homes became some of the worst hit. As my colleague Molly Schwartz explained in February:
When the coronavirus first appeared in the US, nursing homes were an epicenter of infection and have continued to have the higher death and infection rates of any population. Infection rates in nursing homes rose to a high end of november post-Thanksgiving trip, and death counts continue to rise, peaking at 7,004 weekly deaths in nursing homes alone the week of January 14. As of February 2, 153,159 of the 443,751 Americans who have died from COVID-19 (a whopping 35 percent) are residents of long-term care facilities; they represent less than 1 percent of the United States population.
Last summer, the Justice Department, then under the leadership of the Trump administration, requested more information from these three states, as well as New Jersey, to assess whether their “mandatory admission” policies may have caused pandemic deaths in nursing homes. Based on this information, the DOJ opened an investigation in New Jersey. But Friday’s announcement from the department effectively ended the chances of a federal investigation in the other three states.
The announcement drew harsh criticism from several Republican lawmakers for the department’s decision not to investigate “must admit.” Orders that may have triggered COVID outbreaks in care facilities. “Where is the justice for nursing home victims and their grieving families?” said Rep. Steve Scalise (R-La), a senior member of the House Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Crisis, in a statement. “These deadly orders contradicted CDC guidance and unnecessarily endangered those most vulnerable among us to the deadly COVID-19 virus.”