The agency says it’s evaluating whether to initiate investigations under the federal Civil Rights of Institutionalized Persons Act (CRIPA), which protects the civil rights of persons in state-run nursing homes, among others.
A Justice Department official says the agency is requesting COVID-19 data from the governors of states who issued orders which the department says may have resulted in the deaths of thousands of elderly nursing home residents.
“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,” says Eric Dreiband, assistant attorney general for the Civil Rights Division. “We must ensure they are adequately cared for with dignity and respect and not unnecessarily put at risk.”
Nursing home patients comprise roughly a third of Michigan’s COVID-19 related deaths since the pandemic began.
Republicans have criticized Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s orders involving COVID-19 and nursing homes.
Whitmer press secretary Tiffany Brown insists protecting the health, safety, and wellbeing of our seniors and most vulnerable residents has been a top priority throughout this crisis.
She labels the DOJ request for COVID-19 data as politically motivated.
“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,” Brown said in a written statement.
Brown says the Whitmer administration will “review this letter and respond as appropriate.”
Gov. Gretchen Whitmer (D-MI) and Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D-NY) issued a joint statement on the DOJ leters:
“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."