Report: Number of Michigan Nursing Home Deaths 42 Percent Larger Than Whitmer Disclosed

Democrat governor required nursing homes to accept positive coronavirus patients from hospitals

Michigan governor Gretchen Whitmer (D.) / Twitter
January 13, 2022

The number of COVID-19 deaths in Michigan nursing homes is 42 percent larger than Democratic governor Gretchen Whitmer's administration disclosed, according to a state auditor general's report reviewed by the Washington Free Beacon.

The report, which Auditor General Doug Ringler is set to release in full next week, shows 8,061 COVID-19 deaths in the state's long-term care facilities from Jan. 1, 2020, to July 2, 2021. That number is 42 percent larger than the 5,675 deaths Whitmer's health department reported.

The revelation comes nearly two years after Whitmer implemented a policy that required nursing homes to accept positive coronavirus patients who were discharged from hospitals. That decision, Republicans argued, led to increased deaths in elderly facilities. One suburban Detroit senior care center, for example, saw a spike in cases after it accepted two dozen positive patients from a local hospital one month after Whitmer's order. While national Democrats lauded the governor for her strict coronavirus rules early on in the pandemic, Michigan now holds the fourth-highest death rate per 100,000 residents, according to the New York Times.

"We have now seen the true scope of Gov. Whitmer's dangerous policies, and we must ensure these tragic circumstances do not happen again," state representative Steve Johnson (R.), who requested the auditor's report, said in a Thursday statement. "There is frankly a lot to answer for, and our legislative panel will be working to get those answers."

Whitmer's administration moved to dispute the report a week before its scheduled release. In a Sunday letter, Michigan Department of Health and Human Services director Elizabeth Hertel expressed "serious concerns" with the auditor's findings, arguing that Ringler used "a different definition of a reportable long-term care COVID-19 death than required by the CDC." Ringler's report notes that his office "disagree[s] with some of the statements" made in the letter and defends its methodology.

Whitmer's office did not return a request for comment.

Whitmer is not the only Democratic governor to face criticism over undercounted nursing home deaths. Disgraced former New York governor Andrew Cuomo (D.)—who also directed nursing homes to admit positive coronavirus patients—undercounted deaths in state facilities by more than 50 percent, according to a January 2021 report from state attorney general Letitia James. The New York State Bar Association found in June 2021 that Cuomo's policy did indeed cause more deaths of nursing home residents.

Michigan Freedom Fund executive director Tori Sachs echoed Johnson's call for an investigation following the report's release.

"Instead of trying to provide answers for the families who lost loved ones in nursing homes and long-term care facilities, Governor Whitmer and her administration are more concerned with political spin and covering up that they underreported deaths by 42 percent," Sachs said. "These were people's lives—not data points—that the Whitmer administration chose to ignore. There must be a thorough investigation and accountability for Governor Whitmer's failure to protect Michigan's most vulnerable residents."