19:53 GMT19 April 2021
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    On 11 March, Michigan county prosecutor Peter Lucido announced that he would investigate nursing home deaths in relation to Gov. Gretchen Whitmer's COVID policies for long-term care facilities. He did not rule out criminal charges against the governor, who risks getting mired in a scandal like her New York state counterpart, Andrew Cuomo.

    Macomb County Prosecutor Peter Lucido has recently urged those who lost family members to COVID in nursing homes to request medical records concerning their relatives' "transfer, incident or death" and forward them to local law enforcement. The prosecutor revealed that two reports - in Warren and Shelby Township – had already been filed, as cited by CBS Detroit. Lucido earlier suggested that Whitmer could potentially be charged with two state misdemeanours, one count each of wilful neglect of office and reckless endangerment of a person's life.

    Michigan Gov' Whitmer's Nursing Home Order

    "If we find there’s been wilful 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. Of course, we would. Nobody’s above the law in this state," Lucido told 7 Action News earlier this week.

    Gov. Whitmer's office denied the allegations, denouncing Lucido's actions as "shameful political attacks based in neither fact nor reality". As of 8 March, there have been 24,073 confirmed cases among nursing home residents in Michigan. An estimated 5,537 residents have died in long-term facilities since the beginning of the pandemic.

    ​In August 2020, Lucido, then a state senator, raised the alarm over the governor's nursing home policy, under which patients tested positive for COVID were placed in the same facility with those who did not have the disease. He drew attention to the fact more than 2,000 residents had died along with 21 staff members at the time.

    Whitmer's policy closely resembled that of New York Governor Andrew Cuomo, whose office is now under federal investigation due to the under-reporting of COVID-related deaths at nursing homes. According to Epoch Times, in the early days of the coronavirus pandemic, Michigan along with New York and some other states pursued a policy aimed at preventing hospital overcrowding by returning "medically stable" elderly patients to the nursing homes they lived in.

    "Any long-term care facility that has a dedicated unit and provides appropriate PPE to the direct-care employees who staff the dedicated unit must admit anyone that it would normally admit as a resident, regardless of whether the individual has recently been discharged from a hospital treating COVID-19 patients," Gov. Whitmer's executive order 2020-50 of 15 April 2020 said.

    Although the EO specified that dedicated isolation units and adequate personal protective equipment were necessary for the readmission of seniors potentially infected with COVID, the measure's critics insisted that intermingling those patients with others in long-term care facilities could lead to a spike in deaths.

    ​The Detroit News revealed in June 2020 that in the opening days of the pandemic Melissa Samuel, president and CEO of the Health Care Association of Michigan, urged Gov. Whitmer to house COVID-infected residents in separate facilities away from the general nursing home population to "avoid widespread infection." However, the state authorities declined the suggestion.

    Furthermore, in late July 2020, Whitmer banned the Republican-led Senate bill 956, which would ban nursing homes "from admitting or retaining an individual starting 1 September who tests positive for COVID-19 unless the person had recovered or unless a nursing home could provide care in a separate building". Commenting on her move, the governor branded the legislation as "nothing more than a political game".

    Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer campaigns with Dan O'Neil, a Democratic candidate for the Michigan House in Traverse City, Mich., Friday, Oct. 9, 2020. Whitmer visited the area the day after police announced a foiled plot to kidnap the governor.
    © AP Photo / John Flesher
    Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer campaigns with Dan O'Neil, a Democratic candidate for the Michigan House in Traverse City, Mich., Friday, Oct. 9, 2020. Whitmer visited the area the day after police announced a foiled plot to kidnap the governor.

    Controversy Simmering Over Nursing Homes' COVID-Related Death Toll in Michigan

    Meanwhile, on 26 August 2020, four states with Democratic governors: New York, Michigan, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania – were subjected to scrutiny by the US Justice Department over "orders which may have resulted in the deaths of thousands of elderly nursing home residents".

    In a letter forwarded to Gov. Whitmer, Assistant Attorney General of the DoJ's Civil Rights Division Eric Dreiband requested documents concerning COVID infections and coronavirus-related deaths pertaining to each nursing home in the state. "We request the above information within 14 days," the letter said. It remains unclear what numbers and details the governor's office provided to DOJ.

    ​On Wednesday, Detroit NBC affiliate WDIV-TV ran a report concerning the governor's handling of COVID in the state's nursing homes.

    The channel pointed out that following the allegations raised against Governor Cuomo's administration, "Local 4 filed a Freedom of Information (FOIA) request to ask about Michigan's numbers." "It turns out, there aren't any," the report stated. "Our request came back with a denial of data stating, quote, 'there are no records of the location of death collected.'"


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    coronavirus, COVID-19, Gretchen Whitmer, Andrew Cuomo, New York, Michigan, US
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