House Republicans press state AGs to probe governors’ deadly nursing home orders

Published: Jun 25, 2020

On Wednesday, all five Republican members of the House Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Crisis, as well as Republican members of the New York, California, Michigan, New Jersey and Pennsylvania delegations, urged the attorneys general of those states to investigate the origins of their governors’ deadly nursing home orders and the impact those orders had on their states’ elderly populations.

The new letters come more than a week after Select Subcommittee members wrote to the Democratic governors of those five states requesting information about their nursing home orders. So far only New York Governor Andrew Cuomo has failed to respond directly, and only California Governor Gavin Newsom has provided a partial response.

“These governors are withholding information from the public and House Democrats are letting them get away with it with their partisan refusal to join our investigation. As a result, we are now calling on the attorneys general of these states to investigate the orders behind these avoidable tragedies,” said Republican Whip and Select Subcommittee Ranking Member Steve Scalise (R-La.) “Grieving families of those who died as a result of these orders deserve answers about why they were put in place and the full extent of their impact, and there is no amount of stonewalling, name-calling, or blame-shifting that will make us give up on getting them.”

Read the letters to:

The Attorney General of New York

The Attorney General of Michigan

The Attorney General of California

The Attorney General of New Jersey

The Attorney General of Pennsylvania

Background:

  • On March 13, 2020, the Center for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) issued guidance “For Infection Control and Prevention of Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) in Nursing Homes.”
  • The March 13 guidance said that “nursing homes should admit any individual that they would normally admit to their facility, including individuals from hospitals where a case of COVID-19 was/is present” only if the nursing home can follow Centers for Disease Control (CDC) quarantining guidance.
  • CMS Administrator Seema Verma later said, “[u]nder no circumstances should a hospital discharge a patient to a nursing home that is not prepared to take care of those patient’s needs.”
  • Despite these warnings, however, governors of multiple states issued guidance and executive orders forcing nursing homes to admit people with the virus, thereby encouraging the spread to those vulnerable populations.
  • While nursing home residents make up 0.6% of the U.S. population, they account for 42% of nationwide COVID-19 deaths, Ranking Member Scalise pointed out at last week’s briefing.
  • New York has seen 6,423 deaths in nursing homes and New Jersey ahs seen 6,571. Those are in comparison to the 1,724 seen in Florida, a retirement state that followed CMS guidelines. On a per-capita basis, nursing home deaths in New York have been 500% higher than Florida and New Jersey’s have been have been 1,120% higher than Florida.
  • Last week, Democrats sent their own letters trying to blame CMS for the nursing home situation, which Ranking Member Scalise called “desperate” and “completely divorced from reality.”
  • On Tuesday, Governor Cuomo blamed nursing home workers for infecting seniors in his state. Ranking Member Scalise responded that the attempt was “despicable” and added that  “Governor Cuomo has no one but himself to blame for this tragedy.”
  • Responses to the Select Subcommittee’s initial requests for information can be found below: