The number of people dying from COVID is a tragedy but perhaps the biggest travesty of the pandemic is the 50,000 or more preventable deaths — the lives of Americans living in nursing homes who died because Democrat governors in a handful of states stuck COVID patients in their facilities, causing a massive spread that killed them.
Andrew Cuomo issued the order that killed at least 15,000 seniors in care facilities and his Democrat colleagues in New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and Michigan did the same thing.
Now, Republican senators are demanding accountability and want full Congressional hearings over what happened. Here’s more:
Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, led the charge calling for a hearing on the nursing home deaths in Michigan, New Jersey, New York and Pennsylvania in a letter sent to Durbin on Friday.
Ten of Cruz’s fellow Senate Republicans joined him on the letter, writing that congressional oversight “is needed to ensure the protection of seniors’ civil rights.”
The senators wrote that congressional oversight also was needed to “seek justice” for the nursing home residents who died from COVID-19 after the Department of Justice (DOJ) Civil Rights Division recently announced it would not be investigating the states that implemented policies requiring nursing homes to take in coronavirus-positive patients.
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“This decision not to pursue potential civil rights violations in states with high-profile Democrat governors raises serious concerns that the Biden administration is acting based on politics, not the law,” the senators wrote in the letter.
Cruz and his fellow Republicans wrote there is “ample basis to investigate the nursing home response” in the four states “particularly in light of the billions of dollars that Congress appropriated for the COVID-19 response.”
“These four states pressured nursing homes to accept patients with active COVID-19 infections who were being discharged from hospitals at the height of the pandemic,” they wrote, adding that the states “did so despite directions from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) that hospitals should not discharge patients with a COVID-19 diagnosis to a long-term care facility unless.”
“By discharging patients to long-term care facilities, the states likely increased the case rate or fatality risks for nursing homes,” they wrote. “And then, to cap it off, there is significant evidence that Governor Andrew Cuomo of New York and his senior staff engaged in a cover-up to minimize the death toll in these facilities.”
“At the time we called for a hearing in February, our purpose was to promote transparency for the American people on this issue and to determine whether ‘the Department of Justice has all the tools and funding that it needs to investigate and prosecute to the extent necessary this tragedy,’” they wrote.
“Now, with the Department’s decision not to open a CRIPA investigation, a hearing is needed for those same reasons, as well as to ensure that the Department is acting impartially and in accordance with the law,” the senators continued.
In July, Joe Biden dropped the investigation into embattled New York Governor Andrew Cuomo and the executive order he signed that became a death warrant for over 15,000 nursing home residents.
During the Trump administration, the Department of Justice sought information about Cuomo’s coronavirus nursing home order after his administration has repeatedly failed to produce an accurate number of nursing home deaths and covered up the numbers for months. But with Biden in charge, the probe has been dropped.
The Democrat governor’s order has been widely considered to be disastrous because it placed COVID-19 patients with the elderly and people with disabilities, those most vulnerable and likely to die from the virus. Cuomo later reversed the order, but he continually has refused to take responsibility for it. Recent reports showed that the scale of data manipulation continued for several months and was more extensive than first alleged.
Janice Dean, a senior meteorologist at Fox News, has been a leading critic of Cuomo after both her in-laws died from the coronavirus in March in assisted living and nursing home facilities in New York. She posted the news on twitter and issued a heartbroken statement.
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“A terrible day for thousands of families. In a letter to @SteveScalise, @TheJusticeDept wrote that they were dropping the nursing home investigations in all states including New York. There will be no justice for our loved ones, and it feels like we’ve lost them all over again,” she said.
New York has the highest coronavirus death count and the second highest death rate in the U.S. in large part because of the nursing home deaths.
In May, Cuomo insisted during a press conference that he did nothing wrong in his handling of nursing homes during the coronavirus pandemic and would not resign from his position.
Cuomo said that the investigation into his handling of nursing homes “was a political investigation started by Donald Trump.” He insisted that the former president politicized nursing home policies during the pandemic and unfairly blamed Democratic governors for cases and deaths in nursing homes.
“It was all our fault,” Cuomo said. “And then had his political Department of Justice start an investigation. And they were a political Department of Justice, there’s no doubt about that.”
Last year, the Department of Justice asked the state for data about the 600-plus nursing homes in the state as well as detailed information about hospital deaths related to COVID-19. Officially, New York reported 6,722 deaths at nursing homes due to the coronavirus this year. However, the state tally only includes people who died at the facility; nursing home residents who were transferred to hospitals and died there are not included in the total.
Times Union columnist Chris Churchill, the Associated Press and others believe the 6,700-plus reported nursing home deaths are a “significant undercount.”
“The state is hiding the truth in other words – perhaps to make a controversial March 25 order requiring that nursing homes accept COVID-19 patients appear less catastrophic than it really was,” Churchill wrote in reaction to the new Department of Justice request.
Churchill said Cuomo keeps criticizing the investigation as a political, partisan attack, but it is not true. News outlets with right and left political leanings have been questioning the governor, as have Democrat and Republican lawmakers.
“Journalists and state lawmakers from both parties have repeatedly asked for the full count, only to be stonewalled by Cuomo and the Department of Health,” he wrote. “There’s no logical reason for the secrecy, other than protecting the governor’s reputation.”
Cuomo is not alone. Four other Democrat governors also ordered nursing homes to take coronavirus patients: New Jersey, California, Pennsylvania and Michigan. These five states have some of the highest nursing home death numbers, according to data from the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services.
Like so many others, Dean said she wants to know why the governor put vulnerable nursing home patients at risk, why he did not use the other makeshift hospitals for COVID-19 patients instead and why the state still has not released the total number of nursing-home deaths linked to the virus.
“This is not political. It’s about accountability @NYGovCuomo,” she wrote on Twitter. “We won’t stop.”
The New York Times reported April 28 that Cuomo’s aides purposefully prevented state health officials from releasing the true number of nursing home deaths to the public. The effort took place over five months in 2020.
One study found that 35% of all coronavirus deaths were in nursing homes by July of 2020, but the published report said that the number was 21%. Cuomo’s aides also put immense pressure to prevent a report from State Health Commissioner Howard Zucker from being sent to the state assembly speaker while they were investigating nursing home deaths, according to the Times. Zucker’s letter said that a total of 9,835 nursing home residents had died from coronavirus.
Elkan Abramowitz, a lawyer representing Cuomo’s office, told The New York Times that the administration was “reluctant” to release unreliable information and called the situation “overblown.”