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People who've lost loved ones due to COVID-19 while they were in New York nursing homes attend a March protest and vigil in New York City. As of this month, Photo: Spencer Platt/Getty Images

The Department of Justice has decided not to launch a civil rights investigation into whether policies in New York, Pennsylvania and Michigan contributed to pandemic deaths in nursing homes, according to a letter sent to Republicans.

Why it matters: The Trump DOJ requested data from the three states plus New Jersey last August "amid still-unanswered questions about whether some states, especially New York, inadvertently worsened the pandemic death toll by requiring nursing homes to accept residents previously hospitalized for COVID-19," per AP.

The big picture: While the letter sent to House Minority Whip Steve Scalise (R-La.) Friday said it wouldn't open investigate "any public nursing facility within New York, Pennsylvania, or Michigan at this time," it stated that investigations into two New Jersey nursing homes remained ongoing.

  • Scalise in a statement described the decision not to open an investigation into the three other Democratic-run states as "shameful" and accused the DOJ of being "complicit in these Democrat governors' cover ups."

Of note: New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo has been critcized for his handling of COVID-19 in nursing homes early in the pandemic.

  • New York Attorney General Letitia James, a Democrat, released a report in January accusing his administration of undercounting coronavirus deaths in nursing homes by up to 50%. Cuomo's office has said there's nothing wrong in the accuracy of the health department's numbers.
  • Cuomo has previously said the Justice Department inquiry was politically motivated.

What they're saying: Bobby Leddy, a spokesperson for Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, said in an emailed statement that it was "deeply disturbing that Republicans sought to politicize" the pandemic.

  • "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," Leddy said.
  • Leddy stressed that at "no point were nursing homes ever forced to take COVID-positive patients."
  • "Instead, we made the smart decision to require that residents who contracted this deadly disease be kept as far away from others as possible to prevent more people from getting sick," Luddy added.
  • There was no immediate response to a request for comment from the DOJ, nor from representatives for Cuomo or Penn. Gov. Tom Wolf.

Go deeper

Updated 6 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

  1. Vaccines: FDA approves Pfizer boosters for high-risk individuals, people 65 and up — Team USA to mandate vaccine for Winter Olympic hopefuls — U.S. to buy 500 million more Pfizer doses to share with the world.
  2. Health: Some experts see signs of hope as cases fall — WHO: Nearly 1 in 4 Afghan COVID hospitals shut after Taliban takeover — D.C. goes further than area counties with vaccine mandates.
  3. Politics: Bolsonaro isolating after health minister tests positive at UN summit — United Airlines says 97% of U.S. employees fully vaccinated — Mormon Church to mandate masks in temples.
  4. Education: Asymptomatic Florida students exposed to COVID no longer have to quarantine — Education Department investigating Texas mask mandate ban — D.C. schools to require teachers, staff to receive vaccine without testing option.
  5. Variant tracker: Where different strains are spreading.
Sep 22, 2021 - Health

Brazil's health minister tests positive for COVID during UN summit in N.Y.

Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro (L) and Health Minister Marcelo Queiroga in Brasilia, Brazil, in May. Photo: Andressa Anholete/Getty Images

Brazilian Health Minister Marcelo Queiroga has tested positive for COVID-19 while in New York City for the UN General Assembly (UNGA), he confirmed Tuesday night.

Why it matters: Hours earlier, Queirog had accompanied Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro to the UNGA. The Biden administration expressed concern last week that the gathering of world leaders could become a coronavirus "superspreader event."

19 hours ago - Health

Asymptomatic Florida students exposed to COVID no longer have to quarantine

Gov. Ron DeSantis during a September news conference in Viera, Florida. Photo: Paul Hennessy/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis announced Wednesday an emergency order allowing parents to decide whether their children should quarantine or stay in school if they're exposed to COVID-19, provided they're asymptomatic.

Why it matters: People infected with COVID-19 can spread the coronavirus starting from two days before they display symptoms, according to the CDC. Quarantine helps prevent the virus' spread.

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