by Scott McClallen
A Michigan lawmaker has requested an investigation into Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s Executive Order 2020-84, which forces some nursing homes below an 80 percent capacity to create a unit dedicated to caring for residents with COVID-19.
That order expires after Wednesday.
“Nursing homes are not hospitals, and no one expects them to be,” Sen. Peter Lucido said in a statement. “They’re not equipped or prepared to handle the type of work or administer the type of care that hospitals provide.”
The Shelby Township Republican said he sent the letter to U.S. Attorney Matthew Schneider and Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel.
“Yet, somehow, knowing this, someone decided that people sick with COVID-19 should be sent into nursing homes and kept there,” Lucido said. “This, despite the fact that some actual hospitals have gone virtually unused in the fight against COVID-19. It was completely illogical and further threatened the health of already vulnerable people residing at nursing home facilities as well as their caregivers.”
Robert Gordon, director of the Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS), said in an oversight hearing last week that the order favored transferring COVID-19 residents to nursing facilities before alternative care sites such as the TCF Center in Detroit because nursing homes have a better ability to care for the elderly.
Chief Medical Executive Dr. Joneigh Khaldun said Monday the state’s number of COVID-19 positive long-term care residents has fallen over the past week to about 2,670.
But she expects that number to increase with targeted testing, she said, which will allow them to isolate infected residents to prevent COVID-19 from spreading.
“This week, we also intend to make a number of changes with regard to reporting from these facilities, including aligning with new federal reporting requirements and expanding these requirements for adult foster care facilities, assisted living facilities and homes for the aged,” Khaldun said.
WDIV Local 4 reported that COVID-19 related nursing home residents in the tri-county Metro Detroit area, including Detroit, accounted for 1,464 deaths.
MDHHS spokesperson Lynn Suftin said there were 719 COVID-19 related deaths in nursing homes reported as of Monday, a number that is likely undercounted because of reporting discrepancies.
Suftin said the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) partnered with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) with plans to provide skilled nursing facility data on its website by the end of May.
“We are developing a reporting structure that will capture data consistent with the federal agency’s requirements, which will allow Michigan’s skilled nursing facilities to report to MDHHS and MDHHS to transmit the data to CDC/CMS,” she wrote in an email.
“This will eliminate the burden of facilities reporting information to two entities and ensure the state is capturing data consistent with our federal partners,” Suftin said.
Executive Director of Michigan Rising Action Tori Sachs criticized Whitmer’s administration for not providing data sooner.
“The Whitmer administration needs to immediately release the number of COVID-19 related deaths statewide in nursing homes and identify a plan to keep members of our most vulnerable population safe,” Sachs said in a statement.
COVID-19 hit many long-term care facilities hard across the nation as residents fall into two major at-risk categories: the elderly and those with underlying health conditions that compromise immune systems.
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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.