by Scott McClallen
The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS) ordered nursing homes statewide to provide on-site COVID-19 vaccines to residents within 30 days.
“With the Omicron variant rapidly spreading across our state and cases of COVID-19 continuing to remain high, we want to make sure our most vulnerable Michiganders are protected from the virus,” MDHHS Director Elizabeth Hertel said in a statement. “The COVID-19 vaccine is our best defense against the virus, and we want to ensure everyone has the opportunity to get up to date.”
Under the order, nursing homes must offer on-site doses of COVID-19 vaccines to residents who are not up to date as of Jan. 20, 2022. The order doesn’t force residents to get vaccinated.
COVID disproportionately kills older Michiganders. About 74% of eligible Michigan nursing home residents have already received a booster shot. Nearly 2.6 million booster and third doses have been injected statewide, with almost 1 million of those doses provided to Michiganders ages 65 and older.
Nursing homes are encouraged to provide information about COVID-19 vaccines so residents can make informed choices. For residents unable to make their own medical decisions, nursing homes must ask and document the decision made by the resident’s power of attorney.
Nursing homes must document a resident’s consent or refusal of the COVID-19 vaccine.
The order concurred the same day the House Oversight Committee grilled Hertel about an auditor general report finding the state didn’t count 2,386 COVID nursing home deaths because of federal reporting requirements and confusion over where residents died – the home or in the hospital.
The Auditor General’s report found the total number of COVID-19 deaths at long-term care facilities at 8,061, compared to the state’s previous self-reported tally of 5,675.
Nearly half of the disputed 2,386 deaths stem from federal reporting requirements mandating large long-term care facilities such as skilled nursing facilities, adult foster homes, and homes for the aged must report COVID-19 deaths. Smaller facilities – typically with fewer than 13 beds – were not required to report COVID-19 deaths.
At issue is whether Whitmer’s COVID-19 policies exacerbated nursing home deaths by housing infected patients with those most vulnerable to die from COVID-19. COVID-19 disproportionately kills the elderly and those with pre-existing health conditions. In Michigan, 84% of the state’s total COVID-19 victims were people aged 60 and older.
Republicans pressed Hertel, claiming she should have verified the number of self-reported COVID deaths.
“For the department to just say, ‘well, we’ll just accept whatever they tell us’ – well, that’s pretty weak,” Rep. Steve Johnson, R-Wayland previously told The Center Square in a phone interview. “You should know that they aren’t going to be incentivized to give us every number out there, and so we should treat their numbers with a healthy amount of skepticism.”
Hertel argued the report tallied deaths from facilities that did not fall under the federal rubric of long-term care.
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Scott McClallen is a staff writer covering Michigan and Minnesota for The Center Square. A graduate of Hillsdale College, his work has appeared on Forbes.com and FEE.org. Previously, he worked as a financial analyst at Pepsi.
Photo “healthcare worker” by The National Guard CC BY 2.0.