Judicial Watch sues for records of New York, Pennsylvania covid nursing homes policies

FPI / March 16, 2021

By Judicial Watch

Judicial Watch announced that it has filed a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuit against the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) for records about New York and Pennsylvania nursing home policies and procedures during the Covid-19 pandemic.

Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf, left, and New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo

“Thousands of nursing home residents in New York and Pennsylvania may have died thanks to those states’ Covid-19 mandates,” said Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton. “The public, particularly those who lost loved ones due to the policies of the Cuomo and Wolf administrations, have a right to know the full truth about this public health scandal.”

Judicial Watch filed the lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia after the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) failed to respond to a December 7, 2020, FOIA request for:

• Communications, including emails and text messages, between Division of Nursing Homes Director Evan Shulman and Pennsylvania Secretary of Health Dr. Rachel Levine regarding policies and procedures for nursing facilities during COVID-19. The timeframe of this request is February 18, 2020 to June 1, 2020.

• Communications, including emails and text messages, between Quality and Safety Oversight Group Director David Wright and Pennsylvania Secretary of Health Dr. Rachel Levine regarding policies and procedures for nursing facilities during COVID-19. The timeframe of this request is February 18, 2020 to June 1, 2020.

• Communications, including emails and text messages, between Division of Nursing Homes Director Evan Shulman and Pennsylvania Deputy for Quality Assurance Susan Coble regarding policies and procedures for nursing facilities during COVID-19. The timeframe of this request is February 18, 2020 to June 1, 2020.

• Communications, including emails and text messages, between Quality and Safety Oversight Group Director David Wright and Pennsylvania Deputy for Quality Assurance Susan Coble regarding policies and procedures for nursing facilities during COVID-19. The timeframe of this request is February 18, 2020 to June 1, 2020.

• Communications, including emails and text messages, between Division of Nursing Homes Director Evan Shulman and New York Department of Health Commissioner Howard Zucker regarding policies and procedures for nursing facilities during COVID-19. The timeframe of this request is February 18, 2020 to June 1, 2020.

• Communications, including emails and text messages, between Qualityand Safety Oversight Group Director David Wright and New York Department of Health Executive Deputy Commissioner Sally Dreslin regarding policies and procedures for nursing facilities during COVID-19. The timeframe of this request is February 18, 2020 to June 1, 2020.

The U.S. Department of Justice and the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Brooklyn are investigating New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s handling of that state’s nursing homes during the pandemic. As of March 3, 2021, 15,430 nursing home and other long-term care residents in the state have died from Covid-19, according to the New York Long Term Care Community Coalition.

In February, Cuomo’s top aide reportedly admitted that New York withheld information about the coronavirus death toll in the state’s nursing homes out of fear that the true numbers would “be used against us” by the federal government.

In Pennsylvania, as of February 25, at least 12,000 of the nearly 24,000 deaths attributed to coronavirus in that state reportedly occurred in nursing homes and long-term care facilities. Republicans in the state legislature have renewed calls for an investigation into how Gov. Tom Wolf’s administration has dealt with these facilities, specifically the state’s policy requiring that the facilities accept covid-positive patients.

According to a report by Spotlight PA, coronavirus reports from the Pennsylvania Department of Health were “consistently missing data” on nursing homes. The state’s health department was headed during most of the pandemic by Dr. Rachel Levine, who has been nominated for a position in the Biden administration.

Free Press International

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