11 months after the Justice Department sent a letter to the governors of Pennsylvania, Michigan, New Jersey and New York seeking information about whether orders “may have resulted in the deaths of thousands of elderly nursing home residents,” the agency has decided it won't investigate the state of Pennsylvania.
The DOJ told Gov. Tom Wolf's office late last week it would not open an investigation into "whether Pennsylvania violated federal law by ordering nursing homes to accept residents who had been treated for COVID-19 in a hospital," according to NBC Philadelphia.
Steven H. Rosenbaum, chief of the department’s special litigation section, delivered the news in a one page letter after the DOJ reviewed information supplied by the state.
Michigan received a similar letter Thursday, but the status of New York and New Jersey remains up in the air. New Jersey told NBC they had not received the same letter and New York authorities said they were "checking" on whether they had received a letter. After asking New Jersey for information last October, the DOJ "launched a formal investigation into care at New Jersey's veterans homes after receiving what it described as incomplete answers to its request for data," the report notes.
Federal probes into Governor Andrew Cuomo of New York appear to be ongoing.
The investigations hone in on "tens of thousands" of COVID-19 patients that were accepted by nursing homes. In Pennsylvania, that number stood at about 12,300 people, making the state eighth in the country. The CDC first issued guidance on admitting Covid-19 patients to nurse homes in March 2020, NBC noted:
At the onset of the virus, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention had advised nursing homes to create a plan for managing readmissions of residents who contracted the virus as well as admissions of new residents who were infected.
Nursing homes were told to place those residents in a single-person room, or in a separate observation area to be monitored for evidence of the virus.
The American Health Care Association advised nursing homes in March 2020 to create separate wings, units or floors, as well as staff, to handle admissions from the hospital.
National nursing home trade group The American Health Care Association blamed the nursing home outbreaks primarily on location, asymptomatic spread and availability of testing. No nursing home "was forced to accept a COVID-positive patient against its will", other nursing home trade associations argued.