Runestad resolution denounces governor’s nursing home policy

LANSING, Mich. — The Senate on Thursday approved with bipartisan support a resolution sponsored by Sen. Jim Runestad denouncing Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s policy placing COVID-19-postive residents with uninfected residents in nursing homes.

“The governor’s decision to return sick patients to facilities with other residents is deeply flawed,” said Runestad, R-White Lake. “Older adults are particularly vulnerable to COVID-19 and its most serious complications.

“The governor’s policy increased the chance for vulnerable seniors to become seriously ill as a result of exposure to the virus. The governor must be held to account for her actions.”

Senate Resolution 125 states that more than 87% of Michigan deaths from the disease have occurred among Michiganders who were 60 years of age or older, and it cited Whitmer’s Executive Order 2020-50, requiring certain nursing homes to care for COVID-19-affected residents despite the risk to other nursing home residents.

“This policy led to COVID-19-affected residents being placed in the same facilities as residents without the disease, putting a vulnerable population at risk for contracting this deadly disease,” Runestad said. “Nursing homes were ill-prepared to both care for these sick patients and to prevent the spread of the disease to other residents.”

The governor issued EO 2020-50 on April 15. Several requests were made to the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services and the Whitmer administration to release important nursing facility data — including data regarding deaths — related to how COVID-19 was affecting these facilities.

It wasn’t until a full two months later, on June 15, that this data was reported by the state. Only then did residents learn just how severely COVID-19 has ravaged Michigan nursing homes, with more than 1,900 deaths occurring in these facilities — more than a third of all Michigan deaths from the disease.

“The data, which was released to the public in an untimely manner, should have driven a different set of decisions by the Whitmer administration to change their policies and protect our nursing home residents,” Runestad said. “It is vital that we learn the lessons from Michigan’s flawed nursing home policies to better protect our most vulnerable citizens in this and any future public health crises.”

Copies of SR 125 will be transmitted to the governor.

Note: For a print-quality version of this photo or others of Runestad, click the image or Select Photos under the In the News tab. Select Video to view Runestad’s floor speech on SR 125.