Bipartisan bill would stop Whitmer’s order to house COVID-19 patients in nursing homes

Bipartisan bill would stop Whitmer’s order to house COVID-19 patients in nursing homes

One Democratic lawmaker called Whitmer's nursing home policy the "most idiotic thing we could come up with.”

State lawmakers are looking to reverse a plan by Gov. Gretchen Whitmer to house COVID-positive seniors in nursing homes with those who are healthy.

State Rep. Leslie Love, D-Detroit, who has spoken out against the initiative in the past, has crossed the aisle to work with a Republican on a bipartisan effort to change it. Similar policies have been dropped by other states, including New York, after the virus spread quickly through long-term care facilities.

Love’s own 83 year-old mother tested positive for COVID after being housed in one such facility. “It is really taxing on the spirit and quite honestly, very scary,” Love said.

Michigan state Sen. Pete Lucido, R-Shelby Township, agreed with Love that it shouldn’t have happened.

Lucido filed Senate Bill 956, which would prevent COVID-positive patients from being housed with COVID-negative patients. It now sits the Committee on Health and Human Services. Love says she wants to do the same in the House.

A major issue in assessing the scale of the problem is the lack of reliable data. On Tuesday, Chief Robert Gordon of the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services reported 1,126 Michiganders had died in nursing homes (23% of the overall deaths in Michigan attributed to COVID-19), but admitted that this number of reported deaths is less than the actual number.

Gordon also released statistics from Metro Detroit health departments (Wayne, Oakland, and Macomb counties) reporting 1,372 nursing home deaths, which is 33% of Michigan’s total. With only roughly 1 in 10 nursing homes providing numbers, Michigan lacks reliable data on nursing home deaths, so it is impossible to judge the extent of the crisis, but it is significant.

Overall, 87% of all Michigan deaths related to COVID-19 are residents aged 60 years and older, so nursing homes house an especially vulnerable population.

House Speaker Lee Chatfield, R-Levering, took to Twitter Friday evening to condemn the state’s estimated death toll.

“What happened in Michigan is unacceptable,” he tweeted. “Government should have protected our most vulnerable, not needlessly expose them to the virus. They were counting on us and state government let them down. Innocent lives were lost unnecessarily. We need answers!”

Love also wants answers as to why this path was chosen.

“Why the state of Michigan has chosen this path is beyond me,” Love said. “It seems like the most idiotic thing we could come up with.”

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