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Michigan state auditor to review nursing home COVID-19 deaths under Whitmer

Republicans allege Gov. Gretchen Whitmer's order to place COVID-19 infected patients into nursing homes with non-infected seniors contributed to unnecessary deaths.

Updated: July 8, 2021 - 12:26am

The Facts Inside Our Reporter’s Notebook

State Auditor Doug Ringler says he will review how many Michigan residents died from COVID-19 in nursing homes and long-term care facilities.

Ringler wrote a recent letter to House Oversight Chair Steve Johnson, R-Wayland, over the concerns of inaccurately counted COVID-19 deaths in nursing homes.

"We will be working with various departments' databases to address your concerns, which will impact the timing of our work," Ringler wrote.

Ringler estimated the audit would be complete between late September and mid-October.

“The Auditor General’s investigation will finally uncover the full extent of Governor Whitmer’s deadly nursing home policy and give the people of our state the answers they deserve,” Eric Ventimiglia, the executive director for the conservative Michigan Rising Action, said in a statement. “Governor Whitmer’s refusal to relent on this disastrous policy led to the deaths of thousands of Michiganders, and this investigation will ensure that she and her administration are held accountable for their recklessness.”

Hearings followed journalist Charlie LeDuff suing and settling with the state health department after he alleged the state wouldn’t release COVID-19 death data.

For over a year, Republicans have alleged Gov. Gretchen Whitmer's Executive Order to place COVID-19 infected patients into nursing homes with non-infected seniors contributed to an excess number of deaths than otherwise would have happened. In March, more than 50 lawmakers asked the federal government to investigate Whitmer's policy.

The death data from Michigan's nursing homes could be compared to states with similar senior populations that didn't pursue similar nursing home policy.

The health department agreed to release some of the public records LeDuff requested. The department also acknowledges it can’t determine if some patients killed by COVID-19 contracted the virus at a nursing home or other long-term care facility.

But in June 3 House Oversight Committee testimony, MDHHS Director Elizabeth Hertel pushed back, telling lawmakers the accusations weren’t correct. Hertel contended the method LeDuff used “double-counted” deaths.

Ringler could act as a neutral third party.