Michigan Senate Republicans want an investigation into Gov. Gretchen Whitmer's nursing home policies amid the pandemic.
February 28, 2021
LANSING, MI — A group of Michigan Senate Republicans has requested that the state attorney general's office investigate Gov. Gretchen Whitmer's handling of the coronavirus pandemic and in particular—the governor's nursing home policy.
Separate letters sent to Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel and the U.S. Department of Justice Wednesday from Sen. Jim Runestad (R-White Lake) and some of his Senate Republican colleagues argue that COVID-19 cases and deaths among older adults have skyrocketed in the last year.
The letters suggest this increase is an unintended consequence of Whitmer's policies and noted discrepancies in the reported numbers of cases and deaths in the state's long-term care facilities, according to a statement from Michigan Senate GOP members.
"Gov. Whitmer's regional hub policy placed patients with and without COVID-19 in the same facilities and may have exacerbated the death toll in those facilities," Runestad said. "Questions remain regarding the accuracy of data, compliance with CDC guidelines and compliance with our state's Freedom of Information Act. There is a critical need for a full investigation into these matters."
Robert Leddy, Whitmer's press secretary, referred to an op-ed written by Eric Schneidewind, the former national president of AARP, which said "Attacks on the state's nursing home policies are false.
The state never forced a nursing home to accept COVID-19 positive residents. In fact, the Whitmer administration implemented an aggressive nursing home strategy that closely followed CMS and CDC guidance" in responding to an email from Patch.
"The senators' allegations are shameful political attacks based in neither fact nor reality," the administration said in an email to Patch Wednesday. "Our top priority from the start has been protecting Michiganders, especially seniors and our most vulnerable."
According to the most recent data provided by Michigan health officials, 23,978 people in long-term care facilities in Michigan have contracted the coronavirus during the pandemic. That same data shows that 19,734 long-term care facility staff have tested positive for the virus. Michigan data shows 5549 long-term care facility residents have died from the coronavirus, while 81 facility staff have died from COVID.
Runestad compared Michigan's nursing home deaths to similar issues in New York state, where more than 9,000 recovering coronavirus patients were released from hospitals into nursing homes early in the pandemic. The FBI and federal prosecutors have opened investigations into New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo's coronavirus task force, also focusing on the governor's handling of nursing homes.
The Department of Justice previously requested data from Michigan and three other states that required nursing homes to admit COVID-19 patients, sometimes without what they deemed as adequate testing. At the time, Whitmer called the request a political move by then President Donald Trump.
"Michiganders understand there are many, many similarities between Gov. Whitmer's handling of the virus and Gov. Cuomo's: their unilateral overreach (both struck down by the courts), their allusion to vague metrics and data, their questionable vaccine distribution plans, and their outright defiance to losing their emergency powers," Runestad said. "The alarming similarities with New York raise serious questions about what really happened in Michigan." Related: DOJ Seeks Coronavirus Data On Michigan Nursing Home Deaths
In the letters to Nessel, GOP officials requested she immediately open a full investigation into policies that may have contributed to the spread of the coronavirus and the accuracy of nursing home data reported by Whitmer's administration, among other requests.