WASHINGTON, D.C.—Following his call for answers from five Democrat governors on their nursing home policy failures, House Republican Whip Steve Scalise (R-La.) joined Congressman Tom Reed (R-N.Y.) in penning an op-ed for the Washington Examiner emphasizing the need to ensure that every state and nursing facility in our country is better prepared to handle the threat that COVID-19 poses to our nation’s grandparents.

The federal government issued specific guidelines to protect seniors in nursing homes from COVID-19, but several Democrat governors ignored them and the outcome was devastating. These violations must end immediately and these governors owe a public explanation for their decisions that led to tragedy for tens of thousands of our nation’s most vulnerable citizens and their families.

Click here or read below for the full op-ed.

Protect our nation’s grandparents: Investigate coronavirus in nursing homes

The country is on the clock, and precious time is being wasted.

It is estimated over 40,000 of our nation’s grandparents, and the selfless men and women who care for them, have died due to COVID-19 since the start of the pandemic. Until we can ensure that every state and nursing facility in our union is better prepared to handle the threat the virus poses, this horrific death toll will only rise.

Why? While we are seeing a reprieve from the COVID-19 outbreak in significant portions of the country, scientists have warned us that a second wave of the virus may rear its ugly head in the coming months.

Public health measures and abundant testing will help to insulate the general public, but a resurgence in coronavirus cases will further devastate our most vulnerable populations. Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services Administrator Seema Verma and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have been hard at work studying the data and developing important guidance. But clear guidance can only go so far when every state has such varying caseloads and death tolls.

Knowing the impending storm that lies ahead, we must aggressively mobilize a coalition of leaders in the public and private sectors to join together and build a comprehensive strategy to protect our elderly.

We’ve already seen the deadly impact the wrong policies can have — so why not start there? By closely investigating the states where things went so awry, we can learn from the serious mistakes of the past and avoid repeating this dark history.

In New York alone, more than 5,900 nursing home and adult care residents have died — and this number is undercounted because of the way the state has assigned nursing home deaths. Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s decisions, including forcing nursing homes to receive virus-positive patients, are directly responsible for the death of so many of the state’s grandparents. The decision was in direct conflict with CDC guidance despite Cuomo’s claims otherwise (which were rated “mostly false” by Politifact).

Months into the crisis, Cuomo still doesn’t have a clue. After weeks of enforcing a twice-a-week testing regime, despite numerous questions over the effectiveness, cost, and impact of such a rule, the state has again reversed course. Even for Cuomo, it was impossible to ignore reports revealing that nursing facilities hadn’t received test results for weeks and hospitals were delaying elective surgeries.

Instead of taking responsibility for the state’s inability to protect its vulnerable, Cuomo has deflected blame to anyone he can, including nursing homes, the federal government, and even the New York Post.

Cuomo has a number of questions to answer. Though he’s ignored past requests for answers, we can summarize a few of them. Why were the danger signs ignored? Why haven’t more industry stakeholders been consulted?

Governing by press conference was never the answer. A full investigation into New York is needed to deliver accountability, illuminate why these decisions were made, and develop best practices so we can keep this from happening to anyone else.

A close examination of other states with high death tolls (such as Michigan, Washington, and New Jersey) is needed to understand what happened on the ground and determine what can be done to prevent such outcomes.

While the onus is on state officials to adapt federal guidance to best account for the local public health dynamics, Congress can do more to support these reviews and assist in the development of a national nursing home strategy. We encourage both the House of Representatives and the Senate to hold hearings on the issue, examine how federal funds can be better targeted to incentivize best practices, and facilitate more collaboration between federal, state, and local officials.

We are making remarkable progress against COVID-19, but the devastating toll the virus has already taken on nursing home residents demands more action and more leadership. We owe the generations that came before us (the veterans who stormed the beaches of Normandy, the men and women who built post-war America) so much.

It is our duty to now ensure that every corner of the country has the plans, procedures, and infrastructure in place to best protect our nation’s grandmothers and grandfathers.