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EDITORIAL: Whitmer's nursing home data should be examined
The Detroit News - 3/2/2021
Mar. 2—A group of state Republican lawmakers are asking Attorney General Dana Nessel, as well as the federal Justice Department, to investigate Gov. Gretchen Whitmer's COVID-19 policies impacting nursing homes. Specifically, they want to know how the administration reported related data.
Whitmer's policy on sending virus patients to nursing homes was quite similar to that of New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, who is under fire for allegedly underreporting deaths in those facilities.
The Michigan governor has been sparing throughout the crisis in reporting data. An investigation is warranted to provide the transparency that is missing.
The state reports roughly a third of state COVID deaths — more than 5,500 — came from these care facilities. Whitmer stubbornly refused for months to revise the dangerous policy that required nursing homes to accept COVID patients.
Although we have little confidence the hyper-partisan Nessel will delve deeply into the conduct of a fellow Democrat, it would align with her prosecution of former Gov. Rick Snyder and members of his administration for deaths allegedly stemming from the Flint water crisis.
Eight state senators sent a letter to both Nessel and the U.S.Attorney General's office asking them to look into whether there were any discrepancies in how the nursing home cases and deaths were counted and reported. They also want to know how the state complied with guidelines provided by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Republican Sens. Jim Runestad of White Lake, Tom Barrett of Charlotte, Ruth Johnson of Holly, Kim LaSata of Bainbridge Township, Roger Victory of Hudsonville, Lana Theis of Brighton, Dale Zorn of Ida and Curt VanderWall of Ludington all signed the letter.
Additionally, the Mackinac Center Legal Foundation is planning to represent a Michigan journalist in a case regarding the state's refusal to release data on nursing home deaths. The center says it plans to file a suit.
Cuomo is in the hot seat after allegations were raised that he withheld similar data on nursing homes' COVID-related deaths. Cuomo's administration is accused of only reporting the deaths of nursing home residents if they occurred in nursing homes, leaving out those residents who died in hospitals. New York officials reportedly did this because they feared they'd be investigated by the Trump Justice Department.
Cuomo initially had a similar nursing home policy to Michigan's, but changed course in May — months before Whitmer did.
Michigan citizens deserve to know whether our state's leaders have been honest with them.
Rep. Steve Johnson, R-Wayland, says his members are working on a similar request. Johnson has expressed frustration in trying to get information from the state Health Department and Whitmer on nursing home deaths.
Johnson, who chairs the House Oversight Committee, had requested that Health Director Elizabeth Hertel testify before the committee last week, but instead she sent a letter defending the state's nursing home data, calling it "exemplary."
That may be. But given the number of residents who have died and the impacted families, Nessel should make sure the Whitmer administration is being transparent with the public.
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