On Thursday, in his capacity as ranking member of the Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus crisis, Republican Whip Steve Scalise (R-La.), announced that he will be sending oversight letters to Democratic governors of multiple states who ordered nursing homes to readmit COVID-positive patients, to determine what led up to those disastrous decisions. He also called on Democratic members of the panels to join the effort in a bipartisan fashion.
Below is video of the Scalise’s opening and closing remarks from Thursday’s Select Subcommittee briefing, as well as his opening remarks as prepared for delivery:
Opening statement clip:
In March, an administration official warned against sending COVID patients back to nursing homes.
But governors in states like NY and Michigan essentially forced facilities to take in infected patients, with tragic results.
Those governors should be held accountable. pic.twitter.com/2hChipdjdQ
— Select Committee Republicans (@SelectGOP) June 11, 2020
Closing statement clip:
Multiple Democrat governors ignored health protocols and forced nursing homes to take in coronavirus-positive patients. The results were tragic and completely avoidable.
Will House Democrats join our efforts to hold those governors accountable? pic.twitter.com/v0UJwL5ETo
— Select Committee Republicans (@SelectGOP) June 11, 2020
Mr. Chairman, as we face the very serious challenges before us, I first want to begin today with positive news. After a long and difficult few months, the American recovery has begun. All 50 states have finally begun reopening. Last week we just got the May jobs report. Instead of an expected 7.5 million additional jobs lost, we shattered the post WWII record by creating 2.5 million NEW jobs in May. The Paycheck Protection Program that we passed with President Trump has made loans to more over 4.5 million small businesses and lent over $500 billion to save millions more jobs for hard working families. Clearly the work we have done together has helped America make it through some of the toughest times in our nation’s history. And now, we’re seeing the American people burst out of their homes with energy and a determination to get back to work and make America a more perfect union.
Today’s weekly unemployment claims remind us we have work still to do. Our job now is to keep this recovery moving forward. While we know the virus still remains, we also know that we have turned a corner in our response. We have conducted more then 3.2 million tests in the past seven days. Production and delivery of PPE increases daily. The private sector, FEMA and HHS have delivered tens of millions of n95 respirators, surgical masks, and face shields, and over a billion surgical gloves. Under President Trump’s direction the FDA has expediated promising therapies and vaccines that are being tested as we speak.
Make no mistake, COVID 19 is an insidious and evil enemy. As today’s hearing underscores, this hidden enemy attacks the elderly at an alarming rate. Our job is to protect those most vulnerable. Nursing home residents make up 0.6% of the U.S. population but account for 42% of nationwide COVID-19 deaths. Unacceptable and more sadly, was largely avoidable.
The decision of several governors to essentially mandate COVID positive patients go back to their nursing homes ended up being a death sentence. 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% higher than Florida and New Jersey is 1,120 percent higher than Florida.
Other states, like Michigan, California, and Pennsylvania that forced COVID positive patients back to nursing homes have similar, tragic disparities.
Today Mr. Chairman we should be focused on what went wrong. Let’s walk through what happened. On February 6th CMS released the first guidance related to COVID for nursing homes. The Administration saw what had begun to unfold in Europe and took quick action. On February 29th, America experienced the first nursing home outbreak in Washington state.
On March 13, CMS updated guidance to continuing clarifying how to treat COVID positive patients discharged from hospitals. CMS Administrator Seema Verma said “[u]nder no circumstances should a hospital discharge a patient to a nursing home that is not prepared to take care of those patient’s needs.”
But unfortunately, on March 25th Governor Cuomo’s health department issued a directive in contradiction to CMS guidance by mandating nursing homes to take COVID-19 positive patients. New Jersey essentially copied New York’s order – also with deadly results. Two weeks earlier, Governor DeSantis of Florida PROHIBITED transferring COVID-19 positive patients from hospitals to nursing homes. Very Different orders yielding very different results.
On March 18, Pennsylvania also issued guidance mandating nursing homes continue to accept new admissions and readmissions including patients that have COVID-19. While defending this decision, even Pennsylvania’s own Health Secretary moved her mother out of a nursing home.
On April 15, the Governor of Michigan issued a similar Executive Order mandating nursing homes accept patients regardless of COVID-19 status. Michigan State Democratic Representative Leslie Love criticized the Governor’s reckless order calling it “an epic fail.” Mr. Chairman, shockingly, that order remains in effect today. I call on Governor Whitmer to rescind this order immediately and I hope my colleagues will join me in standing up for the patients and families in Michigan.
I have drafted letters for each of these governors requesting information on what led to these tragic decisions. 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.
Mr. Chairman, the American people have decided it is time to safely reopen and get back to work so they can rebuild and reopen. It is time for us to stand together for justice and equality. To do this requires we protect those most vulnerable to this virus. We must turn a bright light of sunshine on the mistakes that were made – so needless deaths no longer occur. I yield back.