Michigan House Member Rips DOJ for Dropping Whitmer Nursing Home Investigation

Michigan Office of the Governor via AP, File

Gretchen Whitmer has dodged some political landmines this year.

First, she blew off her own COVID-19 restrictions and rented a private jet to fly down to Florida and visit her Dad and bring her daughters back home from Florida. Then she instituted a multi-level plan to encourage Michiganians to get vaccinated but blew that up after a couple of weeks with no fanfare or much criticism when Michigan pretty much just ignored the program.

Just last week, she learned that the Biden Department of Justice was dropping all inquires into how states like Michigan and New York handled the nursing home protocols during the height of the COVID-19 crisis last year. While she didn’t have a direct hand in the DOJ dropping this, let’s just say that unlike when Donald Trump was President, the current occupant of the Oval Office will take her calls ASAP, if you catch my drift.

One of Michigan’s Congressional members is none too happy about this decision and has made it known in a letter to Michael E. Horowitz, Inspector General of the Department of Justice. Here is part of what Congresswoman Lisa McClain is requesting from the DOJ in light of the decision to drop this important investigation.

“This decision has thousands of Michiganders across the state concerned. Families all across the state are demanding answers for why their loved ones were locked in facilities with Covid-carrying individuals. For over a year, Michiganders have demanded answers from their governor to no avail. Last year, it seemed that the Department of Justice was going to finally get answers, from Governor Whitmer for the people of Michigan. On July 22nd, 2021, that hope faded with the Department’s decision.

For that reason, we are requesting that you open a formal inquiry into why the Department of Justice will not conduct an investigation into Governor Whitmer’s decision to place COVID-19 infected patients in long-term care facilities.”

In a press release by Michigan Rising Action, they clearly agree with Congresswoman McClain’s decision to ask for an investigation into this.

“The Democrats’ shameless attempt to give political cover to Governor Whitmer so she can avoid being held accountable for her deadly nursing home scandal is a new low in American politics,” said Eric Ventimiglia, executive director for Michigan Rising Action. Ventimiglia continued, “We applaud Congresswoman McClain for her dedication to uncovering the truth of what happened in nursing homes in Michigan. The DOJ’s decision is a betrayal to all of the families who lost loved ones due to Governor Whitmer’s policy, but we are confident that leaders like Lisa McClain will ensure those responsible will answer for their negligence.”

This is no small issue and the effort to see what happened not only here in Michigan but in other states like New York is not trivial in any way, shape, or form. How we treat those who once cared for us is a damn important issue and an indicator of what kind of overall society we have in our nation.

Just this past May, an independent journalist by the name of Charlie LeDuff released some disturbing data on how the nursing home numbers on deaths are being possibly undercounted. From my article Report: Michigan Nursing Home COVID Deaths Could Be Underreported by 40% or Higher

It appears that Michigan wildly under-counts Covid deaths in its long-term care facilities.

A joint investigation by the “No BS News Hour” and the Mackinac Center for Public Policy reveals that the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) does not do a thorough job of scrubbing vital records to determine whether people who died of Covid were nursing home residents, as its own guidelines require.

Moreover, our investigation found that DHHS did conduct a limited review of those vital records last summer, and found that 44 percent could be traced to nursing homes.

Don’t expect the nursing home data to get better or more accurate. DHHS has abandoned the practice of thoroughly scrubbing records because it is considered too “time-consuming.”

Why does this matter?

As I said above, we have been told that state officials were basing all the decisions they were making on science and data. So all the closures and restrictions we experienced here in the Great Lakes State were supposed to be based on the best data possible.

According to LeDuff’s Deadline Detroit story above, they reviewed records after having to sue to have an FOIA request honored and found this: From March to June of 2020, the state audited 1,468 death records and of those 648 deaths were traced back to long-term care facilities. Taking that 44% as an average and applying it to the near 7,000 other vital records deaths recorded would be close to another 3,000 deaths for those who are being cared for in care facilities.

Just shoving people into nursing homes during a pandemic doesn’t seem to be humane or based on the “science & data,” as we have been constantly told. That the federal government is willing to drop this investigation when the work done by LeDuff and The Mackinac Center shows that, at least here in Michigan, there are some serious questions on the numbers reported. The DOJ dropping this looks like political gamesmanship of the worst kind.

Is that how we should be treating our parents and grandparents? Sweeping investigations about how they were treated underneath the rug?

I’m not good with that and I’m glad that others in Congress like Lisa McClain are not either.