Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer (D) responded to House GOP Whip Steve Scalise’s request for information on the influx of nursing home deaths in a handful of states run by Democratic governors, including California, New Jersey, Michigan, New York and Pennsylvania, but would not share any insight on the repercussions of her state's nursing home policy. Rep. Scalise’s letter pointed to the guidance of CMS Administrator Seema Verma, when she warned against moving COVID-19 positive patients into nursing homes. All of the aforementioned states had policies that allowed just that, which triggered the influx of nursing home deaths.
In Michigan, Gov. Whitmer’s policy that led to a massive increase in nursing home deaths has received bipartisan criticism. Michigan has a total of 38,000 residents living in nursing homes and reported 1,947; for context, Florida has an estimated 140,000-150,000 residents in nursing homes and saw 1,637 deaths associated with nursing homes. The Detroit News also reported that Gov. Whitmer’s administration declined a suggestion from the CEO of the Health Care Association of Michigan to move COVID-positive patients to “vacant facilities” rather than highly populated nursing homes, in order to avoid such a widespread infection.
Michigan’s state legislature passed a resolution last week urging Gov. Whitmer to end the policy that allows COVID-positive patients to share quarters with healthy residents:
"Gov. Whitmer's nursing home policy put the lives of Michigan's most vulnerable to COVID-19 in danger and it's time she explains why the state implemented this disastrous policy and continues it," said Tori Sachs, executive director of Michigan Rising Action. "We applaud the Michigan legislature's resolution denouncing Whitmer's nursing home policy and efforts to pass legislation to protect seniors moving forward."
The flaws in her policy receive bipartisan opposition, and have led to a spike in preventable deaths in Michigan, but Gov. Whitmer declined to shed light on the repercussions of her executive order:
“...the jurisdiction of your subcommittee cannot be stretched to embrace federal oversight into policies aimed at protecting the public safety, health, and welfare of a state and its residents. I hope that as 2 members of a federal body tasked with oversight of the federal executive branch during this unprecedented public health crisis you refrain from encroaching on the sovereign power of a state government to deal with state matters, and instead work with the leadership of your subcommittee to focus attention on the work entrusted to Congress by the people of the United States,” she wrote.
While Gov. Whitmer claims the policy is aimed at “protecting public safety,” her failure to abide by the advice of CMS Administrator Verma’s guidelines led to an increase in deaths that could have been prevented, as Rep. Scalise points out:
“Rather than answer our questions, Governor Whitmer has simply refused to cooperate. Most outrageously, she’s able to do this because House Democrats are letting her get away with it with their partisan refusal to join our investigation. There is no excuse that will change the fact that the grieving families of those who died because of this order still deserve answers about why it was put in place,” the Louisiana Republican said in a statement to Townhall. “We will continue to call on our Democrat colleagues to join us in getting to the bottom of this and look for other ways to obtain the information being withheld. Her stonewalling will not deter us from getting the answers these families deserve.”
The horrific policies that lead to a massive spike in nursing home deaths should be opposed on a bipartisan basis, and governors should be forced to answer questions about the policies that they themselves implemented.