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Blind eye? Feds won't investigate Whitmer's COVID-19 nursing home policy

An initial inquiry opened under former President Donald Trump is being dropped.

Updated: July 23, 2021 - 1:35pm

The Facts Inside Our Reporter’s Notebook

The U.S. Department of Justice won’t investigate Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s nursing home policies.

An initial inquiry was opened under former President Donald Trump’s administration, which requested data from Michigan.

Now, 11 months later under Joe Biden’s administration, the probe won’t happen. Democrat Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel refused to investigate as well.

At issue is whether Whitmer’s COVID-19 policies exacerbated nursing home deaths by housing infected patients with those most vulnerable to die from COVID-19. In Michigan, 87% of COVID-19 deaths were those ages 60 and older.

About 5,754 staff and residents’ deaths in Michigan long-term care facilities were linked to COVID-19 or about 30% of the state’s total deaths from the SARS-COV-2 virus.

Michigan and New York were two of five states that pursued a controversial policy that placed COVID-19 positive patients in nursing homes.

Nursing home advocates say Whitmer’s policy hit nursing home patients and their families with a double-whammy: first, her executive order placed infected patients with non-infected ones, and then Whitmer closed family visitation for nearly a year until March to stop the virus’ spread, isolating the elderly from family contact.

In Sept. 2020, Salli Pung, the state long-term care ombudsman, said complaints to her office nearly doubled over a year. Close to half of the 2,600 calls were about visitation and isolation complaints.

However, one investigation is still pending: This month, Michigan General Auditor Doug Ringler said he will conduct a “comprehensive study of reported and unreported deaths” in nursing home facilities.

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