Threatening to file a lawsuit within three weeks, the American Civil Liberties Union and the Service Employees International Union (SEIU), along with disability organizations, petitioned the Department of Health and Human Services to take immediate action to correct the Federal Government’s mishandling of the coronavirus pandemic for people with disabilities and health care workers in congregate settings, including nursing facilities. The Petition recites that HHS and its agencies [the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS), Center for Clinical Standards and Quality (CCSQ), and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)],
delayed the effort to monitor the extent of the problem, significantly curtailed the inspection and enforcement program, waived basic patient safety protections, and failed to issue clear, robust COVID-19 specific infection prevention and control directions for those facilities to follow.
Petitioners allege that “This tragedy is also a civil rights violation, landing disproportionately on people with disabilities, Black and Latinx people, and women.” Id.
Petitioners request that HHS and its agencies require transparency and accountability, reduce the census in congregate settings, and protect residents and staff (by, among other actions, testing or isolating newly admitted residents; requiring universal testing of residents; cohorting residents by COVID-19 status; requiring “a full-time, qualified and trained infection preventionist;” restoring training requirements for staff; “using appropriated funds to incentivize facilities to provide paid sick leave and hazard pay to workers;” reporting all deaths from the pandemic, including demographic information; reporting all staffing levels, specifically, requiring submission of payroll-based staffing data since January 2020; rescinding and modifying the inspection survey protocol, specifically criticizing the Focused Infection Control Survey as insufficient to determine compliance with infection prevention and control requirements; and more.
July 16, 2020 – T. Edelman
 “Petition of American Civil Liberties Union, Service Employees International Union, American Association of People with Disabilities, Autistic Self-Advocacy Network, Disability Rights Education and Defense Fund, National Council on Independent Living, Partnership for Inclusive Disaster Strategies and World Institute on Disability” (Jun. 23, 2020), https://www.aclu.org/petition-covid-19-response-nursing-homes-and-other-congregate-settings-where-people-disabilities; ACLU, “ACLU, SEIU, Disability Rights Organizations File Petition Demanding HHS Mitigate the COVID-19 Crisis in American’s Nursing Homes and Other Congregate Settings for People with Disabilities” (Press Release, Jun. 23, 2020), https://www.aclu.org/press-releases/aclu-seiu-disability-rights-organizations-file-petition-demanding-hhs-mitigate-covid.