DOJ requesting data from Wolf, other governors, regarding deaths in elderly nursing home residents

WASHINGTON D.C. – The U.S Department of Justice Wednesday announced it has requested COVID-19 data from the governors of states—including Pennsylvania—that issued orders which may have resulted in the deaths of thousands of elderly nursing home residents.

The governors of New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Michigan required nursing homes to admit COVID-19 patients to their vulnerable populations, often without adequate testing.

The data will help inform whether the DOJ will initiate investigations under the Civil Rights of Institutionalized Persons Act regarding the states’ response to COVID-19 in public nursing homes.

“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,” said Assistant Attorney General for Civil Rights Division Eric Dreiband. “We must ensure they are adequately cared for with dignity and respect and not unnecessarily put at risk.”

In a letter to Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf, Dreiband said the DOJ is requesting the data to evaluate whether to open an investigation under the federal Civil Rights of Institutionalized Persons Act, which protects the civil rights of persons in state-run nursing homes, among others.

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.

According to the letter sent to Wolf, the DOJ is seeking: the number of public nursing home residents, employees, other staff, guests, and visitors who contracted COVID-19, regardless of where such persons contracted COVID-19; the number of public nursing home residents, employees, other staff, guests, and visitors who died of COVID-19 including those who died in a public nursing home or after being transferred to a hospital or other medical facility, hospice, home care, or any other location; all state-issued guidance, directives, advisories, or executive orders regarding admission of persons to public nursing homes; the number of persons who were admitted to a public nursing home from a hospital or any other facility, hospice, home care, or other location after testing positive for COVID19 during the period the guidance or orders were in effect.

According to the Centers for Disease Control, New York has the highest number of COVID-19 deaths in the United States, with 32,592 victims, many of them elderly.

Pennsylvania reported 7,624 deaths, with the highest number of deaths in the 80-89 age group.

Dreiband said the DOJ has not reached any conclusions in the matter, but expects to get the requested data within 14 days.