Rep. Steve Scalise, R-La., on Thursday said that he is sending oversight letters to a number of Democratic governors who sent coronavirus patients into nursing homes and asked Democrats to join him in getting to the bottom of the issue.
"The decision of several governors to essentially mandate COVID positive patients go back to their nursing homes ended up being a death sentence," Scalise said in a briefing for the House Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Crisis. "New York has suffered 6,318 deaths in nursing homes. New Jersey, 6,327. Compare that to Florida -- a retirement state -- 1,454. On a per capita basis, nursing homes deaths in New York are 500 percent higher than Florida and New Jersey is 1,120 percent higher than Florida."
Florida Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis has touted his decision to keep coronavirus patients out of nursing homes as a key to his state's relatively successful response to the virus.
The coronavirus is much more dangerous to older people than it is to the young and healthy, a fact that was underscored by the blowback New York Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo received after it was revealed he issued a directive requiring nursing homes to admit COVID-19 patients before eventually reversing course. An Associated Press report showed that more than 4,300 coronavirus patients were sent to the state's nursing homes, which, according to Jeffrey N. Nichols of The Society for Post-Acute and Long-Term Care Medicine, had the effect of "contribut[ing] to 5,000 deaths."
Cuomo has defended his directive as in line with guidance from the Trump administration and notes that other states did the same thing. But Scalise noted that the Trump administration changed its guidance in mid-March to caution against sending coronavirus patients to nursing homes "not prepared" to handle the disease. New York's policy remained in place until May 10.
Cuomo's defense is not stopping Scalise from putting Democratic governors whose decision-making might have contributed to preventable deaths in their states on the hot seat -- he also mentioned Democrat-led Pennsylvania, Michigan and California in his Thursday remarks.
"Today Mr. Chairman we should be focused on what went wrong. Let's walk through what happened," he said. "I have drafted letters for each of these governors requesting information on what led to these tragic decisions."
Scalise added: "I ask all members of this subcommittee sign these letters so we can prevent more unnecessary deaths from occurring. Let's work on a bipartisan basis to get all of the information and data -- and ensure these deadly mistakes are not repeated."
Fox News' Marisa Schultz and the Associated Press contributed to this report.