Gov. Gretchen Whitmer left out information on nursing homes and other long-term care residential facilities during her testimony about the coronavirus to the Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations of the Committee on Energy and Commerce on Tuesday.
The state’s decision to place people diagnosed with the novel coronavirus into nursing homes has been met with harsh criticism, especially as the state continues to not track or report data related to deaths in those facilities.
Michigan is just one of three states that does not track or report data about deaths from COVID-19 in nursing homes, according to Axios. The other two states are Montana and South Dakota.
Nearly 70 percent of all coronavirus deaths have been individual 70 years old or older, according to data from the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services.
In her testimony, Whitmer discussed efforts to secure personal protection equipment, increased testing and implementing contact tracing. She mentioned nursing homes just once, while talking about testing.
“The state continues to facilitate broad testing within several other types of congregate care facilities, including skilled nursing facilities, adult foster care, local jails, homeless shelters and settings that host migrant agricultural workers,” Whitmer said in her testimony.
Whitmer’s most recent order on nursing homes came on May 20 and allowed a “holistic decision-making process” to ensure that residents diagnosed with coronavirus “will only be discharged from a hospital to a facility that is capable of safely isolating the resident,” according to a statement from the governor’s office.
A Michigan Senator has submitted legislation that would prevent hospitals from transferring coronavirus-positive patients into nursing homes after a member of the Michigan House expressed outrage that her mother had caught the virus while in a nursing home.
“Nursing homes are not hospitals — no one expects them to be — and state government shouldn’t force them to take in patients with COVID-19,” Sen. Peter Lucido (R-8-Shelby) said in a statement. “There’s no telling how many people fell ill or even died as a result of this practice. My bill would ensure that it stops and would help ensure the health and safety of the vulnerable people who reside at nursing homes, and the staff who care for them, by better mitigating their exposure to the virus at the facilities.”
Lucido has also called for an investigation into the executive orders that made the policy possible.
Tori Sachs, executive director of Michigan Rising Action, went after Whitmer in an opinion piece published in The Detroit News on Sunday.
“Whitmer likes to say she is using “facts,” “science” and “data” to inform her decisions. How can we take that statement seriously when the state still doesn’t have data or a plan to keep the most vulnerable populations in Michigan safe?” she wrote. “The vulnerable residents living in nursing homes cannot afford to wait any longer for the Whitmer administration to enact new safety measures and a holistic plan to stop the spread of COVID-19 to the population who is most at risk of dying from the virus.”
Michigan currently has more than 57,700 confirmed cases of the coronavirus, according to the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services. The death toll is 5,553 and the number recovered is more than 38,000.
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