Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer (D) is facing increased scrutiny over a policy that may have contributed to increased nursing home deaths related to the coronavirus pandemic.
Now, a Michigan prosecutor says that Whitmer could face criminal charges.
What is the background?
Whitmer issued an executive order last year that prohibited nursing homes and other long-term care facilities from turning away “residents who tested positive for COVID-19 regardless of whether they were contagious,” WJRT-TV reported.
The problem, of course, is that such facilities typically house society’s most medically vulnerable people.
The exact number of long-term facility residents who died of COVID-19 in Michigan is not known, and state Republican lawmakers say Whitmer’s administration is not disclosing critical data. As of the end of February, state data indicated that more than 5,500 Michiganders had perished from COVID-19 in long-term facilities, WDIV-TV reported, or about one-third of all COVID-19 deaths in Michigan.
What are the details?
Macomb County prosecutor Peter Lucido (R), who was recently elected to the position, said Monday that he is open to prosecuting Whitmer if crimes regarding her pandemic response are uncovered.
“If we find there’s been willful 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 WXYZ-TV.
In fact, Lucido is instructing Michigan residents “who lost loved ones to COVID as residents or staff inside nursing homes should go back to get the vital information about the circumstances of their death and take that to local police and make a complaint as a wrongful death,” WXYZ reported.
Are there investigations?
Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel (D) is reportedly looking into Whitmer’s COVID-related long-term facility policies, but suggested she believes an investigation into Whitmer is unnecessary.
“If you can give us some evidence that there’s been violations of the law, and you can give us some evidence that there was not just conduct that, again, is bad policy, but conduct that violates state or federal statutes, let us know about it for certain. But if not, I get weary of the constant calls for our department to investigate things that are not crimes,” Nessel said recently.
Meanwhile, state Republicans are urging the Department of Justice to investigate.
Eight Michigan Republicans wrote to the Justice Department last week asking federal authorities to determine whether Whitmer’s policies were congruent with federal law.
“The governor employed a misguided policy that placed positive patients in the same facility as healthy residents, increasing the spread of the virus and ultimately having fatal consequences,” state Rep. Phil Green (R) said. “The people deserve to know the reasoning behind the governor’s decisions that put Michigan seniors needlessly at risk.”
How did Whitmer react?
The Democratic governor called Lucido’s remarks “shameful political attacks based in neither fact nor reality” and defended her actions.
The full statement says, according to WXYZ:
Our top priority from the start has been protecting Michiganders, especially seniors and our most vulnerable. The administration’s policies carefully tracked CDC guidance on nursing homes, and we prioritized testing of nursing home residents and staff to save lives. Early in the pandemic, the state acted swiftly to create a network of regional hubs with isolation units and adequate PPE to prevent the spread of COVID-19 within a facility. In addition, we have offered 100 percent of nursing home resident priority access to the vaccine. Both the former head of AARP, as well as an independent U-M study, praised our work to save lives in nursing homes.
Mr. Lucido’s comments are shameful political attacks based in neither fact nor reality. Even his former colleague, Republican Sen. Ed McBroom, has said they “have not seen any evidence or testimony that says that a nursing home was forced to take someone against their will.” And there’s a reason why Mr. Lucido’s colleagues have publicly rebuked this politically-motivated waste of taxpayer dollars. Michiganders are tired of these petty partisan games, and we won’t be distracted by them either.