In the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic, four Democrat-led states issued orders directing nursing homes to accept COVID-19-positive patients even as the virus they carried posed a particularly dangerous threat to senior residents.
Former President Donald Trump’s Department of Justice (DOJ) had opened investigations into those four states, but Biden’s DOJ has now announced that those probes will be ended, including in Michigan, per a letter received Thursday by Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s (D) office, the Washington Examiner reported.
In other words, the officials responsible for imposing the directive on nursing homes, which critics argue potentially resulted in the deaths of thousands of seniors who otherwise might have survived, will not face any accountability and the families of those who perished will not receive any justice.
It was in August that then-President Trump’s DOJ requested specific data on nursing home COVID-19 deaths from Michigan, New Jersey, New York, and Pennsylvania — each of which had ordered nursing homes to accept COVID-positive patients — and opened investigations under the Civil Rights of Institutionalized Persons Act (CRIPA).
“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,” then-Assistant Attorney General for Civil Rights Division Eric Dreiband had said in a press release. “We must ensure they are adequately cared for with dignity and respect and not unnecessarily put at risk.”
Gov. Whitmer’s office had reportedly complied with that request, but following the change in administrations, the DOJ has now informed the governor that it will no longer be pursuing the probe of the potentially fatal policy.
The Detroit Free Press reported that the letter announcing the end of the investigation was received by Gov. Whitmer’s chief counsel Mark Totten, and was sent by the chief of the litigation section of the DOJ’s Civil Rights Division, Steve Rosenbaum.
“We have reviewed the information you provided along with additional information available to the Department. Based on that review, we have decided not to open a (civil rights) investigation of any public nursing facility within Michigan at this time,” Rosenbaum wrote.
The Examiner noted that Michigan Republicans had asked state Attorney General Dana Nessel (D) to launch a similar state-level investigation, only to be met with a denial. However, a similar probe was opened by the state’s auditor, Doug Ringler, that remains ongoing and is expected to conclude later this year.
At the time that the DOJ had initially requested the nursing home COVID-19 death data, Gov. Whitmer and her allies had decried the move as little more than “partisan games,” and her critique was echoed by the governor’s office following the letter announcing that the probe had been closed by Biden’s DOJ, the Free Press noted.
“It’s deeply disturbing that Republicans sought to politicize the worst public health crisis in 100 years, especially when their own proposals would have contributed to even greater spread and loss of life — and, at every step of the way, they opposed the very actions the governor took that saved thousands of lives,” Whitmer spokesman Bobby Leddy said. “With both the United States Department of Justice and Michigan Attorney General rejecting these baseless attacks, it’s time to end the political games and work together to get things done for Michiganders.”
DOJ close other probes
Unfortunately, it isn’t just Whitmer who is now off the hook for her nursing home directive, as a similar letter was sent to House Minority Whip Steve Scalise (R-LA) announcing that, in addition to Michigan, the CRIPA investigations into New York and Pennsylvania had also been closed, though a probe into nursing homes in New Jersey remains active at this time.