U.S. Justice Department won’t investigate Michigan COVID-19 nursing home deaths

Republican lawmakers asked for a civil rights probe into Gov. Whitmer’s policies sending people with COVID-19 back to facilities
Published: Jul. 22, 2021 at 6:45 PM EDT
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LANSING, Mich. (AP) - The Justice Department will not open a civil rights investigation related to COVID-19 deaths in Michigan’s nursing homes.

The notification to Gov. Gretchen Whitmer on Thursday came nearly 11 months after the department’s Civil Rights Division requested data from the Democratic governors of four states, including Michigan, and said it was considering whether to investigate under a federal law that protects the rights of people in public nursing homes.

Most nursing homes are privately owned. Republicans have criticized Whitmer for allowing recovering COVID-19 patients to return to nursing homes, but she has said doing so complied with federal guidance.

Republican State Rep. Phil Green of Millington was among several Michigan lawmakers to send a letter to U.S. Attorney General Monty Wilkinson in March asking for a federal investigation. Green criticized Whitmer’s policies of putting people with COVID-19 in the same nursing homes as healthy people.

Whitmer’s executive order 50 of 2020 required some long-term care facilities to admit residents who tested positive for COVID-19 regardless of whether they were contagious. Residents with the illness were supposed to be housed in areas completely separate from healthy residents.

Michigan health officials say 5,680 long-term care residents and 77 staff have died, accounting for 29% of nearly 19,800 confirmed COVID-19 deaths as of early July.

Republicans who control the Legislature questioned Michigan Department of Health and Human Services Director Elizabeth Hertel in June about death data from nursing homes. She called “untrue” the contention that deaths found by analyzing death certificates may not be reflected in data submitted by long-term care facilities.

Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel declined to investigate Whitmer’s nursing home policies, but Michigan Auditor General Doug Ringler said earlier this month that he will audit the numbers of COVID-19 deaths in nursing homes.

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