Michigan prosecutor says will restart review board to probe COVID nursing home deaths under Whitmer

"We should be protecting our adults and most vulnerable, those seniors that died without their loved ones holding their hand," said Macomb County Prosecutor Peter Lucido.

Updated: March 11, 2021 - 3:36pm

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A Michigan county prosecutor on Thursday laid out his effort to review Gov. Gretchen Whitmer's policies on COVID health-safety policies on nursing homes, in response to a high number of deaths in such facilities over roughly the past year.

An estimated 5,537 people have died in long-term care facilities in the state since the pandemic started about a year ago, which is about 35% of all COVID-related deaths in Michigan over that time period. 

Macomb County Prosecutor Peter Lucido said he's effectively reviving a roughly 68-year-old review board, formed to protect children, to look into Whitmer's policies.

"We do it for children," Lucido said. "We should be protecting our adults and most vulnerable, those seniors that died without their loved ones holding their hand."

He also said the review board will work in conjunction with the medical examiner's office and adult protective services. 

Under Whitmer, nursing home patients who tested positive for COVID were initially placed in the same facility with patients who did not have the virus. The Democratic governor ended that practice after the first six months of the pandemic.

Lucido on Monday called on those who lost family members to COVID in nursing homes to request medical records surrounding those deaths and forward them to local police for wrongful death investigations.

Lucido said Thursday that residents should furnish law enforcement with such information as when and where the death occurred. He also said the name of the attending physician should be included. He said earlier that his efforts have been slowed because such records are protected under so-called HIPAA patient privacy laws.

Amid complaints that her administration has not been forthcoming with data related to virus deaths in nursing homes, Whitmer told a local TV station: "I'm proud of the work that we did. We can parse through different angles of statistics and compare ourselves with other states but ... I think that it sometimes can be a fool's errand because the way that we are congregating data varies from state to state. When there's never a national strategy, [it's] hard to really compare apples to apples."

Lucido said Thursday the review board will conduct a "full, exhaustive, fair and honest" investigation of the cases. 

He said earlier in the week: "If we find there's been willful neglect of office, if we find there's been reckless endangerment of a person's life by bringing them in, then we would move forward with charges against the governor." 

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