(The Center Square) – State Rep. Michele Hoitenga, R-Manton, and 50 Republican lawmakers on Wednesday formally asked for a federal investigation into Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s controversial policy that placed COVID-19 positive patients into Michigan nursing homes.
The letter follows the exposure of a $155,506 secret taxpayer-funded payment for state health Director Robert Gordon that included a confidentiality agreement for the person responsible for crafting the state’s COVID-19 nursing home policies.
In a letter, Hoitenga asked U.S. Attorney General Monty Wilkinson to examine Whitmer’s COVID-19 nursing home policies, how they were crafted, and if they adhered to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and Centers for Medicare and Medicaid guidelines.
“Representatives of people throughout Michigan have heard heartbreaking stories from those who have loved ones and friends in nursing homes during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic,” Hoitenga wrote. “For months, they have been worried for the health and safety of these individuals.
Hoitenga argued one of the few characteristics known early in the COVID-19 pandemic was that it disproportionately killed older people. In Michigan, 90% of COVID-19 deaths were people ages 60 and older.
“From very early on, we knew this virus impacted our elderly population more seriously than younger people," Hoitenga wrote. "We had the science on who this virus was more likely to impact. And there were numbers to show that. But Gov. Whitmer went forward with a plan that put patients who had tested positive for COVID-19 into nursing homes with healthy residents who could be easily exposed and infected. We do not have the reasoning for this decision or the data that supported it – and people deserve to have this information from their decision-makers.”
The U.S. Department of Justice announced in August 2020 that it was looking for data from Whitmer and three other governors who issued orders that may have resulted in additional nursing home resident deaths.
In response, Whitmer's press secretary Tiffany Brown said in a statement the administration will review and respond to the letter, but called the letter “nothing more than election year politics.”
New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo is now facing possible criminal prosecution for allegedly undercounting COVID-19 nursing home deaths after he sent COVID-19 positive patients into nursing homes.
After an Oct. 2 Michigan Supreme Court ruling that tossed many of Whitmer’s executive orders, Gordon issued COVID-19 health orders that largely mirrored Whitmer’s original emergency orders, including nursing home policies.
“The people of Michigan – including those who have had a friend or relative inside of these facilities during a deadly pandemic – deserve to know what went into these decisions,” Hoitenga said in a statement. “This is what we are trying to facilitate through our work with the attorney general. People deserve answers.”
Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Charlie LeDuff also plans to sue Whitmer over allegedly refusing to release COVID-19 nursing home data.
State data reports 5,523 long-term care facility residents across Michigan have died from COVID-19, while 70 staff members have died. The long-term care deaths alone account for 36% of the state’s COVID-19 deaths.
In a Tuesday press conference, Whitmer cited her confidentiality agreement in not answering direct questions about Gordon’s severance package but said she “bristles” at the characterization that the six-figure payout was “hush money.”