Did The Whitmer Administration Underreport Long-term Care Facilities Deaths? Michigan Auditor General Said Yes
Currently Michigan is reporting that 28,228 deaths are linked to COVID-19 and 6,309 of those deaths have been tied to long-term care facilities. That would equate to 22% of the state's total death numbers coming from our nursing homes if you choose to believe the Whitmer Administration’s numbers.
Let’s go back to April 15th, 2020 when Governor Whitmer issued an Executive Order that put Michigan’s most vulnerable population at risk. By doing so many believe she was theoretically personally signing some of their death certificates. On that day she signed Executive Order 2020-50 mandating that all Michigan nursing homes and other long-term care facilities accept COVID-19 patients from nearby hospitals.
That Executive Order stated:
A nursing home with a census below 80% must create a unit dedicated to the care of COVID-19-affected residents (“dedicated unit”) and must provide appropriate PPE, as available, to direct-care employees who staff the dedicated unit. A nursing home provider that operates multiple facilities may create a dedicated unit by dedicating a facility for such a purpose.
If the long-term care facility where the resident resided prior to the onset of one or more of the principal symptoms of COVID-19 (“facility of residence”) has a dedicated unit and provides appropriate PPE to the direct-care employees who staff the dedicated unit, the hospital must discharge the resident to their facility of residence for placement in the dedicated unit, provided there is available bed capacity.
Governor Whitmer was warned on March 19th 2020, by Melissa Samuel, president and CEO of the Health Care Association of Michigan about the harm and death this disease will bring to the nursing homes in Michigan. Ms. Samuel’s organization represents 353 elderly facilities in Michigan.
I wrote a piece back in June of 2020 in which I complemented The Detroit News for a piece they published and the questions they asked. They asked:
- Why didn't she react when reports of escalating nursing home deaths first began coming in?
- Did the administration pause at any point to assess the impact of its policy?
- What science and data were used to inform the executive order?
- Does she have solid reasons for not following the lead of other states in changing her orders?
I would add:
- When she was informed that her executive order was killing nursing home residents and staff at an alarming rate why did you not react to those facts and numbers and attempt to save these residents and staff?
- When you saw the mounting deaths of the elderly in the homes in which you were sending residents infected with Covid-19 what did you do to investigate those deaths and change your EO/policy?
- What were the reasons for your issuance of the EO in question that sent Covid-19 infected people right back to the most vulnerable of our population?
- What scientific data did you rely on?
- What expert medical doctors/scientists did you consult?
- What experts in the field of long-term care facilities i.e. nursing homes did you consult?
- What follow-up research did you perform to determine the positive or negative consequences of your decision to implement the EO in question?
Then in July of 2021, I wrote about the House Oversight Committee Chair Steve Johnson (R-Wayland) asked in a letter to the Auditor General for a:
comprehensive study of reported and unreported deaths in long-term care facilities
Rep. Johnson stated that he is:
confident that the Auditor General will provide us with a more accurate picture of the deadly results of Gov. Whitmer's decision to place COVID positive patients in long-term care facilities
The Michigan Auditor General did agree to that comprehensive study/audit of the nursing home deaths. The report generated from that study/Audit will be available to the public on Monday, January 17th when they publish it on their website. As usual, the big finding in that audit was leaked and the Detroit News wrote a piece about that leak. In the piece, they wrote “state investigation will report the number of COVID-19 deaths linked to long-term care facilities in Michigan is "nearly 30%" above what state officials previously tallied, according to two state officials who've reviewed the audit”.
The Detroit News then reported the following:
Michigan's auditor general is reporting 2,386 more COVID-19 deaths linked to long-term care facilities than previously tallied by the state health department using different tracking methods.
The report by the Office of the Auditor General, obtained Friday by The Detroit News, examines long-term care facility deaths through July 2. It described the difference between the state health department's count and the auditor general office's finding as 29.6%.
The auditor general's office tallied 8,061 COVID-19 deaths tied to long-term care facilities. The state health department, using self-reported numbers from facilities, counted 5,675, so the report's finding is up 42% from the previous total.
Can someone explain the where they came up with the 30% when it appears they underreported the long term care facilities Covid deaths by 42%
Did Whitmer and her Administration really underreport the death numbers attributed to nursing homes by 30%? This is damning news and the question is will Whitmer be held accountable for her actions and I do not mean at the ballot box?
You might think that the leaked information could be wrong. I would agree with that until Elizabeth Hertel, director of the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services, who has seen the report, criticized the findings. In a letter Hertel wrote last Sunday to Doug Ringler, Michigan's auditor general she stated:
I fear that your letter will be misinterpreted to question the work and integrity of long-term care facilities, local health departments, coroners and other frontline workers who we rely on to report data.
No Elizabeth you fear that it will question the work and integrity of Governor Whitmer. Former Director Robert “we were busy” Gordon and you. As it should!
She stated that her concern with the audit was a number of the facilities included in the report are not subject to state reporting requirements. The News reported that the “CDC defines a long-term care facility COVID-19 death as a resident who died from COVID-19-related complications, including deaths in the facilities and at other locations where the resident was transferred. The Auditor General's report will indicate the state health department tracked the COVID-19 deaths generally accurately under the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines”.
Long Term Care encompasses a broad range of people served by this industry.
Adult Foster Care and Group homes are generally people with physical and emotions conditions that limit their ability to safely live on their own. They may need help with activities of daily living (bathing, grooming, dressing, etc), have mental health conditions that cause behavior problems. Most are have minor medication conditions but some have seizure disorders, cerebral palsy etc. Ages range from teens to elderly.
Assisted Living facilities are generally elderly people who cannot live safely on their own, have memory deficits, mild to moderate health conditions, etc.
Skilled facilities have a much high acuity (sicker and require more hands on care) than the other care types. These people often have moderate to severe medical and psychological conditions that require frequent monitoring and assistance. These are generally elderly people but can include younger people with conditions that prevent safe living at home with family.
I found it interesting that Hertel's letter also claimed that the audit included patients that were hospitalized for something other than Covid-19 and “subsequently acquired Covid-19”. Well, Elizabeth if it was good enough for Whitmer to report those cases as people dying of Covid-19 then it should be good enough for the death numbers in this audit report. Talk about hypocrisy.
Another person who verified that 30% number was House Oversight Chairman Steve Johnson, R-Wayland, when he stated:
The 30% number is accurate, and it's incredibly troubling
It certainly is “credibly troubling”. That 30% number equates to another approximately 1,900 nursing home deaths attributed to Whitmer’s Executive Order 2020-50.
Thanks for looking out for the most vulnerable people in our society other than babies Gretchen!
Michiganders remember how the state and national Democrats praised Governor Whitmer for her strict coronavirus rules during the pandemic. Did you know that according to the New York Times Michigan now holds the fourth-highest death rate per 100,000 residents?