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The COVID-19 battle moves to the courtroom


The COVID-19 debate over immunity versus vaccinations continues. However, another type of immunity involves families who have lost loved ones residing in nursing homes who contracted the deadly virus, leaving those grieving with few, if any, legal options.

Lawsuits are piling up over nursing homes admitting but not isolating or testing incoming residents who later tested positive and subsequently spread the deadly virus. Owners of these care facilities are claiming that they are immune from responsibility due to a federal law invoked during the current pandemic.

The Public Readiness and Emergency Preparedness Act was established to protect nursing homes employing countermeasures deemed necessary during a public health emergency. Those measures include drugs, products, and devices to diagnose, prevent, or treat a virus and any instances of transmission. Currently in place, the act is imposed by federal declaration during previous health threats that included Ebola and Zika.

Who has jurisdiction?

What court documents have most in common is allegations over failures to use the tools the act provides when it comes to preventative measures. Currently, the debate surrounds where these lawsuits should be heard and whether federal or state courts have jurisdiction. Currently, more than 100 suits are in various stages of litigation, with plaintiffs citing systemic failures at nursing facilities that resulted in avoidable fatalities.

Health facilities and their advocates claim confusion and chaos during the early days of the pandemic. Misinformation was plentiful while personal protective equipment inventories were limited at best, resulting in challenges in responding while coronavirus was spreading from border to border.

Advocates for nursing home reform claim that the problems were built-in, and COVID-19 only revealed longtime issues in the delivery of care that was unaddressed or outright ignored.

In the end, jurisdictions, verdicts, and compensation will not turn back the clock and give families their loved ones back. With variants hitting the shores of the United States, the problems will only continue until nursing homes implement measures that will protect the lives of their residents and peace of mind for their family members.