Lawmakers to Nessel, U.S. DOJ: Time to investigate Michigan’s coronavirus nursing home policies

LANSING, Mich. — In separate letters sent to Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel and the U.S. Department of Justice Wednesday, state Sen. Jim Runestad and some of his Senate Republican colleagues called for a full investigation into Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic and its relation to the governor’s nursing home policy.

The letters state that COVID-19 cases and deaths among the elderly have soared over the last year. While the governor’s administration has been questioned repeatedly about unintended consequences of her policies and discrepancies in the reported numbers of cases and deaths in the state’s long-term care facilities, it has now come to Runestad’s attention that these reporting errors have not been resolved.

“Gov. Whitmer’s regional hub policy placed patients with and without COVID-19 in the same facilities and may have exacerbated the death toll in those facilities,” said Runestad, R-White Lake. “Questions remain regarding the accuracy of data, compliance with CDC guidelines and compliance with our state’s Freedom of Information Act. There is a critical need for a full investigation into these matters.”

Runestad noted that the tragedy of nursing home deaths here in Michigan is similar to the problems facing New York, and that the FBI and federal prosecutors have opened their own investigation into New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s coronavirus task force, also focusing on the governor’s handling of nursing homes.

“Michiganders understand there are many, many similarities between Gov. Whitmer’s handling of the virus and Gov. Cuomo’s: their unilateral overreach (both struck down by the courts), their allusion to vague metrics and data, their questionable vaccine distribution plans, and their outright defiance to losing their emergency powers,” Runestad said. “The alarming similarities with New York raise serious questions about what really happened in Michigan.”

The letter to Nessel formally requested the attorney general immediately open a full investigation to review the critical matters identified, to include:
1. The processes and policies that may have contributed to the spread of the virus among our most vulnerable nursing home residents across the state;
2. The accuracy of the data reported by Gov. Whitmer’s administration, taking into consideration the discrepancies in facility reporting policies as identified in the letter, to include the failure of some nursing homes to cite cases when a positive result comes back after a transfer to a hospital;
3. Compliance with all CDC guidelines and reporting requirements; and
4. Compliance with Michigan’s Freedom of Information Act.

Note: Click to see the letters from Sen. Runestad and colleagues to Attorney General Dana Nessel and the U.S. Department of Justice.