The DOJ put out a press release today which indicates it will ask for COVID-19 data from states that issued orders requiring care homes to take in infected patients. Specifically the release says it is requesting data from New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Michigan:

Today the Justice Department requested COVID-19 data from the governors of states that issued orders which may have resulted in the deaths of thousands of elderly nursing home residents. New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and Michigan required nursing homes to admit COVID-19 patients to their vulnerable populations, often without adequate testing.

For example, on March 25, 2020, New York ordered: “No resident shall be denied re-admission or admission to [a nursing home] solely based on a confirmed or suspected diagnosis of COVID-19. [Nursing homes] are prohibited from requiring a hospitalized resident who is determined medically stable to be tested for COVID-19 prior to admission or readmission.”…

According to the Centers for Disease Control, New York has the highest number of COVID-19 deaths in the United States, with 32,592 victims, many of them elderly. New York’s death rate by population is the second highest in the country with 1,680 deaths per million people. New Jersey’s death rate by population is 1,733 deaths per million people – the highest in the nation. In contrast, Texas’s death rate by population is 380 deaths per million people; and Texas has just over 11,000 deaths, though its population is 50 percent larger than New York and has many more recorded cases of COVID-19 – 577,537 cases in Texas versus 430,885 cases in New York. Florida’s COVID-19 death rate is 480 deaths per million; with total deaths of 10,325 and a population slightly larger than New York.

This has been the focus of much debate for months. When Cuomo was confronted about his nursing home order back in May he suggested there was nothing anyone could have done:

Older people, vulnerable people are going to die from this virus. That is going to happen despite whatever you do. Because with all our progress as a society, we can’t keep everyone alive. Despite what everything you do and older people are more vulnerable. And that is a fact. And that is not going to change.

The counter-argument is that, actually, there are some things we can do to protect the people who are most vulnerable and the order Cuomo issued in New York is the opposite of taking special care with those populations. In June, ProPublica (definitely not a conservative outlet) published a story about the order which specifically mentioned the bad outcomes in New York, New Jersey and Michigan, all of which has similar orders in place:

In the weeks that followed the March 25 order, COVID-19 tore through New York state’s nursing facilities, killing more than 6,000 people — about 6% of its more than 100,000 nursing home residents. In all, as many as 4,500 COVID-19 infected patients were sent to nursing homes across the state, according to a count conducted by The Associated Press…

States that issued orders similar to Cuomo’s recorded comparably grim outcomes. Michigan lost 5% of roughly 38,000 nursing home residents to COVID-19 since the outbreak began. New Jersey lost 12% of its more than 43,000 residents.

As for what happens next, the DOJ says it will look at the data and decide where to go from there:

The Department of Justice’s Civil Rights Division is evaluating whether to initiate investigations under the federal “Civil Rights of Institutionalized Persons Act” (CRIPA), which protects the civil rights of persons in state-run nursing homes, among others. The Civil Rights Division seeks to determine if the state orders requiring admission of COVID-19 patients to nursing homes is responsible for the deaths of nursing home residents.

There is little hope at this point that the Cuomo fanboys will ever admit he did the worst job of handling this in the U.S. He’s now got a book coming out about his own leadership in a crisis and just last week he was featured at the DNC as the man who showed us how it should be done. It’s infuriating to watch.

Both the glowing praise for Cuomo and the equally enthusiastic condemnation of Trump, is utterly political. If you reversed the party labels the same people would be making very different arguments about what success looks like. Maybe a DOJ investigation can bring a little clarity to the situation.