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Lawmaker: Audit found 30% more COVID-19 deaths in Michigan nursing homes than earlier reported

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nursing homes

Nursing home residents in Michigan still face some COVID-19 restrictions.

A report that hasn't been released by the Michigan auditor general shows the state may have underreported COVID-19 deaths in nursing homes, but the state health department disagrees.

LANSING, Mich. (WJRT) - A lawmaker is promising additional investigation after an audit discovered 30% more COVID-19 deaths in Michigan nursing homes than state health officials had reported earlier.

Republican State Rep. Steve Johnson of Wayland said the House Oversight Committee will look into the discrepancy uncovered by Michigan's auditor general. The full report had not been released by Thursday morning.

“While I am eager to thoroughly review the full report, what has been made clear is a sizable and shocking undercount of COVID-19 deaths at long-term care facilities in Michigan," said Johnson, who is chairman of the House Oversight Committee.

He did not say when the Michigan Auditor General will release the full report on COVID-19 deaths in long-term care facilities.

"This was important information to gather for those throughout our state who have loved ones and relatives in nursing homes and are scared, and sadly those who lost friends and family to COVID-19 while inside of a nursing home or other long-term care facilities," Johnson said.

The House Oversight Committee plans to look at how the discrepancy in deaths happened and what changes are necessary to prevent a similar problem from occurring again.

Johnson and several other Republicans have been openly critical of Gov. Gretchen Whitmer's policy in 2020 of allowing nursing homes to accept COVID-19 patients. The plan was designed to allow some patients to leave hospitals as they continued recovering from the illness.

Long-term care facilities who accepted COVID-19 patients were required to care for them in spaces physically separate from other residents, who did not have the illness. But critics believe the policy may have caused additional spread of COVID-19 and led to more deaths in nursing homes.

“We have now seen the true scope of Gov. Whitmer’s disastrous policies, and we must ensure these tragic circumstances do not happen again," Johnson said. "There is frankly a lot to answer for, and our legislative panel will be working to get those answers.”

Whitmer’s administration is disputing the methodology and conclusions in a pending report. The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services sought to publicly preempt it.

In a letter written Sunday and released Wednesday, director Elizabeth Hertel referenced “serious concerns” to the state auditor's office -- including with its plan to combine COVID-19 deaths at facilities that are subject to state or federal reporting requirements and those that aren't.

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