Runestad: Attorney general to announce nursing homes investigation decision Wednesday

‘Nessel must do the right thing — get answers for those who lost loved ones’

LANSING, Mich. — Sen. Jim Runestad on Monday said Attorney General Dana Nessel is expected to announce this Wednesday whether she will agree to Runestad’s request to investigate Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic and its relation to the governor’s nursing home policy.

“I called on the attorney general to carry out an honest investigation into Michigan’s nursing home policies weeks ago. I’ve learned from the attorney general’s office that they intend to announce a decision by Wednesday,” said Runestad, R-White Lake. “Attorney General Nessel knows the right thing to do — and that is to get answers for every family who lost a loved one to COVID-19 in a nursing home.”

The anticipated response comes amid increased calls for an investigation into the Whitmer administration’s nursing home policies. Macomb County’s prosecutor recently announced measures to clear the way for criminal complaints against the administration. Pulitzer-prize-winning journalist Charlie LeDuff is also suing Gov. Whitmer for the release of nursing home virus data.

Multiple legislative committees, including the Senate Oversight Committee, have requested similar data from the Whitmer administration related to the COVID-19 response and nursing home policies, but to date the committees have received nothing from the administration.

“Gov. Whitmer’s regional hub policy placed patients with and without COVID-19 in the same facilities and may have increased the death toll in those facilities,” Runestad said. “We need to know how this happened and why it was allowed to happen; we need to figure out why the data doesn’t add up. Grieving families are tired of the stonewalling. We need an investigation now, because families deserve answers.”

Runestad, along with seven other senators, sent a letter to Attorney General Nessel on Feb. 23 requesting that the office of the attorney general “open a full investigation into Gov. Whitmer’s handling of pandemic mitigation in our state’s long-term care facilities.”

The senators specifically asked that the investigation include the administration’s nursing home policies, the accuracy of nursing home data, compliance with Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines, and compliance with Michigan’s Freedom of Information Act.

“The administration ignored warnings from the Health Care Association of Michigan not to put infected patients into facilities with those most vulnerable to COVID-19, and our seniors faced the consequences of that action.”

Michigan was one of five states whose policies put COVID-19-infected patients into the same nursing home facilities with seniors who were not infected with the virus. In New York, an investigation by the state’s attorney general found that the Gov. Andrew Cuomo administration had not been honest with their nursing home numbers.

“There are too many similarities between what happened in New York and what happened in Michigan,” Runestad said. “New York families recently learned the truth of the matter because of an investigation, and that’s what we need here.

“In New York, a Democratic attorney general is investigating a Democratic governor because it is the right thing to do. This shouldn’t be partisan. Our attorney general needs to do the right thing here, too, and get answers for families who are still grieving the loss of a loved one.”