The U.S. Department of Justice will not pursue an investigation into whether Governor Andrew Cuomo’s controversial nursing home policy during the early days of the pandemic violated civil rights, according to a letter the agency sent to federal legislators demanding a probe.
An attorney with the DOJ’s Civil Rights Division broke the news in a letter to Republican Louisiana Rep. Steve Scalise, ranking member of the House Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Crisis. The agency had sought information determining whether Cuomo violated the Civil Rights of Institutionalized Persons Act after issuing an executive order in March 2020 requiring state-run nursing homes to accept coronavirus patients that were charged from hospitals. It remains unclear whether the order directly led to the virus spreading inside nursing homes, resulting in deaths. In July last year, health officials released a state-sponsored study denying that the policy led to increased fatalities inside nursing homes.
The Associated Press reported in February that over 9,000 patients on the mend from COVID-19 were transferred under this policy, which constituted 40% more than what state officials previously released to the public.
In August, the DOJ, under then President Donald Trump, sought records related to Cuomo’s order. In October, the DOJ sent a letter to the New York state health department asking for records on private nursing homes and other long-term care facilities. Investigators also requested similar information from health departments in Pennsylvania, Michigan, and New Jersey, according to the letter by Deputy Assistant Attorney General Joe Gaeta.
“We have reviewed the information provided by these states along with additional information available to the Department. Based on that review, we have decided not to open a CRIPA investigation of any public nursing facility within New York, Pennsylvania, or Michigan at this time,” Gaeta wrote.
The DOJ’s decision not to pursue an investigation rankled Republicans who viewed the decision as politically motivated.
“Families who lost loved ones deserve better,” Scalise said in a tweet.
His colleague, New York Rep. Elise Stefanik, said in a statement that the decision “makes President Biden complicit in the criminal corruption scandal and coverup of deaths of thousands of vulnerable seniors.”
🚨🚨 BREAKING—Biden’s DOJ just said they’re refusing to investigate the massive nursing home COVID death scandals in New York, Michigan, & Pennsylvania.
They’re complicit in these Democrat governors’ cover ups.
Families who lost loved ones deserve better.
— Steve Scalise (@SteveScalise) July 23, 2021
Even though the Cuomo administration is off the hook from this inquiry, they still face a possible criminal probe by the Brooklyn U.S. Attorney and FBI over whether the administration undercounted the number of nursing home deaths.
A spokesperson for Cuomo did not immediately respond to a request for comment.