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Health, Science & Tech

DOJ Won't Investigate How Pennsylvania Handled Nursing Homes

Nursing home coronavirus
Kathy Willens
/
AP
Melvin Goldstein, 90, smiles as his daughter Barbara Goldstein places her hand on his head during their first in-person, indoor family visit inside the Hebrew Home at Riverdale, Sunday, March 28, 2021, in the Bronx borough of New York.

The Justice Department told Gov. Tom Wolf's office on Thursday that it has decided not to open an investigation into whether Pennsylvania violated federal law by ordering nursing homes to accept residents who had been treated for COVID-19 in a hospital.

The letter comes 11 months after the agency told the governors of Pennsylvania, Michigan, New Jersey and New York that it wanted information to determine whether orders there “may have resulted in the deaths of thousands of elderly nursing home residents.”

The one-page letter, from Steven H. Rosenbaum, chief of the department’s special litigation section, said they had reviewed information supplied by Pennsylvania, as well as “additional information available to the department.”

Michigan received an identical letter Thursday.

Last spring, nursing homes and long-term care homes struggled to contain the virus, many lacking the trained staff, testing supplies and personal protective equipment in the early going that could have helped them slow the spread, public health experts said.

The orders by the four governors — all Democrats — were criticized for potentially fueling the spread of the virus and drew the attention of then-President Donald Trump's Department of Justice in the midst of the presidential campaign.

In Pennsylvania, it is far from clear that the policy led to an outbreak or death.