The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS) is covering up state data to show the extent of devastation from Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s repeated orders last year which forced COVID-stricken patients into nursing homes.
Whitmer signed an executive order on April 15 demanding long-term care facilities “must not prohibit admission or readmission of a resident based on COVID-19 testing requirements or results,” and renewed the policy several times until it was rescinded in September. New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo passed similar orders last year and engaged in a cover-up which has left the governor in the fight for his political life against calls for impeachment.
Whitmer, who now faces potential criminal charges of her own, appears to be engaging in a cover-up as her administration heads to court to keep state death data on nursing homes hidden from public view.
On Tuesday, the Mackinac Center Legal Foundation filed a lawsuit on behalf of Michigan Pulitzer Prize-winning investigative journalist Charlie LeDuff to force the MDHHS to comply with a Freedom of Information Act request to release data on nursing homes.
“Given the recent nursing home policy failures in other states, the need for transparency has become even more critical,” Holly Wetzel, a spokeswoman for the Mackinac Center told The Federalist. “We are disappointed in the consistent lack of transparency demonstrated by the governor’s administration and hope that both MDHHS and Gov. Whitmer bring clarity by voluntarily providing the information we are seeking.”
LeDuff, according to the complaint, first requested aggregate data on Michigan’s death count in late January, which was promptly denied an hour later by state officials claiming a violation of privacy laws. After a back-and-forth with the public health department, LeDuff simplified his request to include merely the age of those who died from COVID, the dates of their death, the date their death was added to the statewide toll, and whether the deceased were infected at a long-term care facility.
The state again denied the request on privacy grounds, although anyone may still go online to request individual death certificates for a $34 fee which includes far more information.
The Michigan public health department said it did not discuss ongoing litigation when reached for comment.
LeDuff also did not return The Federalist’s request for comment.
Nearly 17,000 people have died from the novel Wuhan coronavirus in Michigan as of this writing. It remains unclear how many deaths were a consequence of Whitmer’s nursing home policy replicated by Democratic governors in New York, California, Pennsylvania, and New Jersey.
In New York, new details emerged in recent weeks showing the governor’s office manipulated the state’s reported deaths in nursing homes to underestimate the severity of Cuomo’s deadly policy by nearly 3,000. While initial numbers showed just shy of 6,500 people died from COVID-19 infections in nursing homes, a New York Times reports show the toll closer is to 9,000 following an investigation from the New York attorney general. Cuomo is also suffering political blowback from half a dozen women who have come forward with allegations of sexual misconduct.
The nursing home death toll from Whitmer’s policy remains unknown, as the health department has stonewalled requests for data.
Whitmer’s office did not immediately respond to The Federalist’s request for comment.