Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro (D) on Tuesday announced he is launching criminal investigations into several nursing homes, as coronavirus deaths in care facilities soar, accounting for over two-thirds of virus deaths in the state.
“We will hold nursing facilities and caretakers criminally accountable if they fail to properly provide care to our loved ones,” Shapiro said in a statement on Tuesday.
“While we salute and appreciate nursing home staff on the front lines during this pandemic, we will not tolerate those who mistreat our seniors and break the law,” he added.
Details of the investigation remain sparse, but the attorney general confirmed there are “active criminal investigations.”
Shapiro’s announcement comes as Rachel Levine, the “highest-ranking” transgender official in the state, comes under fire over the department’s March guidance, directing nursing homes to readmit patients who tested positive for the coronavirus but are in “stable” condition.
Per the guidance:
Nursing care facilities must continue to accept new admissions and receive readmissions for current residents who have been discharged from the hospital who are stable to alleviate the increasing burden in the acute care settings. This may include stable patients who have had the COVID-19 virus.
Nearly 70 percent of coronavirus-related deaths in the state — 2,611 of 3,806 — stem from nursing homes and long-term care facilities. Additionally, it was recently revealed Levine moved her own mother, 95, out of a nursing home during the pandemic.
The number of cases is also frustrating residents, who believe that the department dropped the ball on the most vulnerable, yet Gov. Tom Wolf (D) continues to keep them under stringent lockdown orders. Beaver County, for example has 493 cases and 78 related deaths, but health department data shows that 324 of those cases are linked to nursing and personal care homes, and they account for almost all the deaths — 71 of 78.
Despite that, the county remains under Wolf’s lockdown order, which does not expire until June 4.
Similarly, Chester County, which also remains under Wolf’s lockdown order, has 1,929 confirmed cases of the virus and 189 deaths. Roughy one-third, 640, of those cases stem from nursing home facilities, and they account for the vast majority of deaths — 163 of 189.
Despite that, Wolf has continued to defend Levine for doing a “phenomenal job.”
“My assessment of Dr. Levine is that she is doing a phenomenal job,” he said.
“I think it’s a tribute to her that Pennsylvania has actually done a better job than many of our surrounding states in terms of the infection rate and the death rate,” the governor added.