The Justice Department is asking Gov. Gretchen Whitmer for Michigan nursing home data linked to the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak as part of an effort to find out if the state’s response warrants a federal investigation.
Officials want to find out if state orders requiring nursing homes to admit COVID-19 positive patients are responsible for the deaths of residents.
The Civil Rights Division is considering an investigation into whether nursing home residents had their rights violated.
In a letter addressed to Whitmer, Assistant Attorney General Eric Dreiband, of the Civil Rights Division of the U.S. Department of Justice, said, in part, “I write to request information regarding COVID-19 and nursing homes run by, or for, the state of Michigan. ... The Division is evaluating whether to open a (Civil Rights of Institutionalized Parsons Act) investigation of (nursing home) institutions that are ‘owned, operated or managed by, or provide services on behalf of (the state).‘”
The letter asks for the number of public nursing home residents, employees, staff members, guests and visitors who tested positive for COVID-19, as well as the number who died from COVID-19.
Officials are also asking for all state-issued guidance, directives, advisories and executive orders regarding admission to nursing homes.
Finally, it asks for the number of people who were admitted to public nursing homes after they had already tested positive for COVID-19.
The letter requests the information within the next 14 days.
Michigan, New York, New Jersey and Pennsylvania required nursing homes to admit COVID-19 positive patients and received letters from the Justice Department.
“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,” Dreiband said. “We must ensure they are adequately cared for with dignity and respect and not unnecessarily put at risk.”
Whitmer released the following statement:
“Protecting the health, safety, and wellbeing of our seniors and most vulnerable residents has been a top priority throughout this crisis. The fact that this letter was sent during the middle of the Republican National Convention week to four Democratic governors should make it crystal clear that this is nothing more than election year politics by an administration that is more concerned with the president’s re-election campaign than protecting Michigan seniors. We will review this letter and respond as appropriate, however, Americans would all be better served if the Trump administration stopped the partisan games and focused on delivering a real plan to defeat COVID-19.”
A joint statement from New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo and Whitmer can be read below:
“This is nothing more than a transparent politicization of the Department of Justice in the middle of the Republican National Convention. It’s no coincidence the moment the Trump administration is caught weakening the CDC’s COVID-19 testing guidelines to artificially lower the number of positive cases, they launched this nakedly partisan deflection. At least 14 states — including Kentucky, Utah, and Arizona — have issued similar nursing home guidance all based on federal guidelines – and yet the four states listed in the DOJ’s request have a Democratic governor. DOJ should send a letter to CMS and CDC since the State’s advisories were modeled after their guidance.”
You can view the full letter to Whitmer below.