The DOJ’s Civil Rights Division “is evaluating the advisability of opening investigations under the federal law on the civil rights of institutionalized persons,” the department said in a statement announcing the request. “The Civil Rights Division is investigating whether state orders requiring the admission of COVID-19 patients to nursing homes are responsible for the deaths of nursing home residents. ”
The department noted in the statement that the four states – New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Michigan – all “required nursing homes to admit COVID-19 patients into their vulnerable populations, often without adequate testing.” ”
Federal guidelines released on March 13 by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services stated, in part, that “nursing homes should admit everyone they would normally admit to their facility, including people from hospitals where a case of COVID-19 was / is present. ”
In a joint statement Wednesday, Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer and New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo said more than a dozen other states had issued similar orders based on federal guidelines, but the Justice Department was targeting these four states because they were run by Democrats.
Whitmer’s press secretary Tiffany Brown also said the timing of the request “should make it clear that this is nothing more than election year politics.”
CNN has reached out to Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf for comment.
Nursing homes have maintained a particularly sensitive role in the pandemic, with some of the most devastating hotspots having occurred at facilities across the country, including the Washington State Life Care Center, which was once the American epicenter of the epidemic.
From the start, several states, including New York, issued orders requiring nursing homes to admit coronavirus patients. The New York order, issued at the end of March, required nursing homes not to deny readmission or admission to people “solely on the basis of a confirmed or suspected diagnosis of COVID. -19 ”.
Cuomo announced a new policy in May that a hospital cannot refer a person with Covid-19 positive to a nursing home.
The DOJ noted in its statement that the high number of coronavirus deaths in New York City is made up of “many” older people.
“Protecting the rights of some of the most vulnerable members of society, including elderly residents of nursing homes, is one of our country’s most important obligations,” said Deputy Attorney General of the Rights Division civilians Eric Dreiband in the statement. “We need to make sure they are properly cared for with dignity and respect and are not unnecessarily endangered. ”
This story has been updated with responses from the Governors.
CNN’s Joe Ruiz contributed to this report.