Wading into a politically divisive issue in New York state, the U.S. Justice Department is asking for data from states that issued orders that “may have resulted in the deaths of thousands of elderly nursing home residents” during the coronavirus pandemic.
The DOJ sent the letters Wednesday to the governors of New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Michigan. It cited a March 25 order from the state of New York that required nursing homes not to turn away residents with COVID-19.
Critics of the Cuomo administration say that order, which was later revised, led to thousands of deaths in nursing homes. The Cuomo administration denies that and says it followed federal guidance. A report by the state Department of Health faulted workers within the nursing homes for spreading the virus.
The Justice Department says its Civil Rights Division is evaluating whether to begin investigations.
Cuomo and Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, a fellow Democrat, issued a joint statement later Wednesday labeling the query as political.
“This is nothing more than a transparent politicization of the Department of Justice in the middle of the Republican National Convention,” the statement said. “It’s no coincidence the moment the Trump administration is caught weakening the CDC’s COVID-19 testing guidelines to artificially lower the number of positive cases, they launched this nakedly partisan deflection.”