A second Democrat governor, Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, is accused of covering up the number of COVID-19 nursing home deaths in her state after she ordered the facilities to admit COVID-positive patients.
According to the Washington Free Beacon, a new state auditor general’s report found that the number of COVID-19 nursing home deaths in Michigan was 42 percent higher than what the Whitmer administration told the public.
The report from Michigan Auditor General Doug Ringler found 8,061 COVID-19 deaths in state nursing home facilities from Jan. 1, 2020, to July 2, 2021; Whitmer’s health secretary reported 5,675 deaths in that same period, the Beacon reports.
“These were people’s lives—not data points—that the Whitmer administration chose to ignore. There must be a thorough investigation and accountability for Governor Whitmer’s failure to protect Michigan’s most vulnerable residents,” said Tori Sachs, the executive director of Michigan Freedom Fund, in response to the report.
When the pandemic started in early 2020, Whitmer and four other Democrat governors issued orders requiring nursing home facilities to accept patients who tested positive for the coronavirus. Many believe those policies led to thousands of deaths because they exposed the people most likely to die from the virus, the elderly and people with serious ailments and disabilities, to patients who tested positive for it. The orders later were reversed.
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According to the Free Beacon:
One suburban Detroit senior care center, for example, saw a spike in cases after it accepted two dozen positive patients from a local hospital one month after Whitmer’s order. While national Democrats lauded the governor for her strict coronavirus rules early on in the pandemic, Michigan now holds the fourth-highest death rate per 100,000 residents, according to the New York Times.
New York also has one of the highest COVID-19 death rates in the U.S. Former New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, who resigned due to sexual misconduct allegations, was accused of covering up thousands of COVID-19 nursing home deaths in his state after issuing a similar order.
News of the new Michigan report has lawmakers calling for accountability from Whitmer and her administration.
“We have now seen the true scope of Gov. Whitmer’s dangerous policies, and we must ensure these tragic circumstances do not happen again,” said state Rep. Steve Johnson, R-Wayland, in a statement Thursday. “There is frankly a lot to answer for, and our legislative panel will be working to get those answers.”
The Whitmer administration quickly disputed the findings, claiming the state auditor general used “a different definition of a reportable long-term care COVID-19 death than required by the CDC,” according to the report.
But Sachs accused the governor of caring more about her own political future than the grieving families who lost loved ones to COVID.
“Instead of trying to provide answers for the families who lost loved ones in nursing homes and long-term care facilities, Governor Whitmer and her administration are more concerned with political spin and covering up that they underreported deaths by 42 percent,” Sachs said.
In early 2020, Whitmer was one of five Democrat governors who ordered nursing homes to take coronavirus patients, along with New Jersey, California, Pennsylvania and New York. For months after the orders, these states maintained some of the highest nursing home death numbers, according to data from the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services. Some still do.
In June 2020, AARP reported more than 43,000 nursing home residents and staff died from the virus, representing more than one third of all known deaths in the U.S. at the time.
“While dire, this figure is an undercount, experts warn, because not all states are publicly reporting data yet,” AARP reported at the time. “In many states, more than half of coronavirus deaths are connected to long-term care facilities.”