Justice Department asks New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania for COVID data on nursing home deaths

States 'required nursing homes to admit COVID-19 patients to their vulnerable populations.'

Updated: August 26, 2020 - 7:07pm

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The Justice Department on Wednesday requested COVID-19 data from four states it says required nursing homes to accept residents infected with the coronavirus, policies that may have rendered elderly Americans "unnecessarily put at risk."

The department said in a Wednesday press release that it was seeking "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 department named New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and Michigan as the states in question. 

Data indicate that a significant percentage of all COVID-19 deaths worldwide—possibly approaching half of all fatalities—have been in long-term care facilities, locations where advanced ages and chronic medical conditions make patients much more vulnerable to infectious diseases. 

The Justice Department notes that in late March New York State ordered that "no resident shall be denied re-admission or admission to [a nursing home] solely based on a confirmed or suspected diagnosis of COVID-19."

“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 said in the press release. “We must ensure they are adequately cared for with dignity and respect and not unnecessarily put at risk.”

The requests "are not accusations of fault or wrongdoing by the states or any other individual or entity, and the department has not reached any conclusions about these matters," the department noted. 

The letters to the four state governors request various types of state-run nursing home-related data, including the number of residents and staff of such homes that contracted COVID-19, the number of deaths at the homes, and "all State-issued guidance, directives, advisories, or executive orders regarding admission of persons to Public Nursing Homes."

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