Nothing to see here, so move along. That seems to be the message coming from Joe Biden and Merrick Garland. As I’m sure most of you recall, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo made some incredibly bad decisions at the beginning of the pandemic when it came to how nursing homes would be required to handle the containment of the virus. So did the governors of Pennsylvania, Michigan, and New Jersey. They all imposed some version of the same requirement, saying that nursing homes would be forced to accept “medically stable” residents despite their COVID status and they couldn’t require tests for the disease or even ask about the patient’s status as a condition for entry. Many of the tens of thousands of deaths that resulted should have been largely preventable.
This led to a request for an investigation by the Department of Justice into whether or not the civil rights of those nursing home residents had been violated. After a period of supposedly looking into the matter, Merrick Garland’s office appears to have found that there was “no big deal” in those debacles. The DoJ announced yesterday that it was dropping the investigation and no further action would be taken. (NY Post)
The Department of Justice has decided not to investigate whether the civil rights of residents in New York’s government-run nursing homes were violated by Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s controversial admission policy related to the COVID-19 pandemic.
In a letter Friday, the DOJ’s Office of Legislative Affairs told US Rep. Steve Scalise (R-La.), ranking member of that House Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Crisis, that New York was off the hook in connection with potential violations of the Civil Rights of Institutionalized Persons Act.
In August, the DOJ’s Civil Rights Division requested information from New York in connection with a March 25, 2020, order from the state Department of Health that required nursing homes to admit “medically stable” COVID-19 patients discharged from hospitals.
While all of the governors in question made some bad decisions, Cuomo’s were arguably the worst by far and resulted in the largest number of deaths. Barring the nursing homes from even asking about an applicant’s COVID status and threatening to suspend their licenses if they did was simply criminally incompetent. We may not have had a vaccine at the time, but it had already become obvious how quickly the virus was able to spread and the disparate impact it had on the elderly and the medically infirm. Nursing home residents generally fall into both of those categories.
Doesn’t the fact that Andrew Cuomo was caught red-handed lying about the number of deaths suggest anything to Garland indicating that something was amiss? The fact that the CDC was already issuing guidance that was directly the opposite of Cuomo’s mandates should also strengthen the case that those actions were proof of at least massive incompetence and negligence, if not intentional malfeasance.
New York Congresswoman Elise Stefanik was quick to respond to the decision. She accused the Justice Department and, by association, Joe Biden, of being “complicit in the criminal corruption scandal and coverup of deaths of thousands of vulnerable seniors.”
So what prompted this decision? We can’t simply ignore the fact that the governors of all four of those states are Democrats. Would this decision have been made if those nursing home debacles had taken place in red states with Republican governors?
Of course, Cuomo might have had an excuse for putting his deadly policies in place. He was busy arranging special access to COVID testing for his family members and staff while everyone else in New York couldn’t lay their hands on a test kit to (literally) save their lives. Perhaps that kept him distracted.
Cuomo is still under investigation over the nursing home deaths by both the FBI and the Brooklyn U.S. Attorney’s office, so the story may not be over. But the way the Justice Department appears to be sweeping this under the rug is shameful.