Michigan Gov. Accused of Under-Reporting Nursing Home COVID Deaths by 30%

Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer is accused of lying about the number of nursing home residents who died of COVID-19 in 2020 and 2021.

QUICK FACTS:
  • Gov. Gretchen Whitmer (D) and her administration are being accused of grossly underreporting the number of COVID-19 nursing home deaths in 2020 and 2021 according to The Epoch Times
  • Michigan Auditor General Doug Ringler has made his final report on Jan. 17 showing a much higher figure than was anticipated. 
  • Ringler has reportedly been in talks with the state Department of Health and Human Services for months to decide how to report the numbers.
  • The audit found that 8,061 elderly residents of the state died of COVID-19 between March of 2020 and July 2, 2021.
  • Whitmer’s official posted death toll was 5,675 by the totals as self-reported by the state’s extended care facilities, as required by law.
  • Rep. Steven Johnson (R), the chairman of the House Oversight Committee has called for hearings into the case saying on Jan. 13 that he believed an audit was necessary according to Fox News.
WHAT STATE OFFICIALS ARE SAYING:
  • “The state’s Department of Health acknowledged in a letter that a previous total of COVID-19 long-term care facility deaths is 30 percent lower than what the Auditor General found…This is a large discrepancy…There is frankly a lot to answer for, and our legislative panel will be working to get those answers,” Johnson said.
  • Michigan Department of Health and Human Services Director Elizabeth Hertel said in a letter to Ringler said that the additional deaths found by his count were due to differences in counting procedures, not an intentional undercounting.
  • “COVID-19 deaths in facilities that were required to report (to the state) and those that were not required to report, creating the impression of a larger undercount by long-term care facilities than is warranted,” Hertel said.
  • Hartel, a Whitmer appointee, criticized the auditor’s reliance on data from Michigan Disease Surveillance System, which varied substantially from the data the governor’s office was using.
  • According to the DHHS official that information “not an appropriate source for determining if a COVID-19 case resulting in death should be counted as a death in a long-term care facility,” and the system was “an outdated, clunky platform that we’ve continued to utilize…because we have been unable to upgrade or replace it.”
BACKGROUND:
  • Near the start of the pandemic, the governor’s office issued an order that those infected with coronavirus who were under the care of long-term facilities be kept in a designated wing.
  • Statewide, Whitmer was heavily criticized for its drastic COVID-19 containment strategies, including keeping patrons from buying specific items, like seeds, as was reported by Forbes.