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Attorney General Nessel turns down Republican request for COVID nursing home investigation

Michigan’s Attorney General Dana Nessel says she will not investigate how Governor Gretchen Whitmer’s COVID-19 policies affected nursing homepatients.

The most recentstate datashow 35% of COVID-19deaths in Michigan are linked to residents in long-term care facilities.

In the early days of the pandemic, the Whitmer administration created 21 regional hubs. As hubs, the nursing homes were ordered to isolate the COVID patients that were discharged from hospitals and other facilities that did not have space.

Eight Republicanstate senators asked Attorney General Dana Nessel to launch an investigationinto whether the governor’s policies may have contributed to deaths from COVID-19 in nursing homes.   

“Just like New York, Michigan was one of five states whose executive orders forced nursing homes to take COVID-19-positive patients into the same facilities as our most vulnerable seniors,” says State Senator Jim Runestad (R-White Lake).

In their request, the senators questioned the accuracy of nursing home data, as well as if the policies complied with Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines.

But in a letter, Nessel said the senators provided insufficient indication that any law has been violated and “thus no investigation is warranted at this time.”

"As an initial matter, I see no evidence in your letter or elsewhere to suggest that Governor Whitmer’s efforts to contain COVID-19 in Michigan’s nursing homes resulted in increased deaths," Nessel writes. "To the contrary, a recent report by the Center for Health and Research Transformation at the University of Michigan concluded that, overall, Michigan’s strategy to contain COVID-19 nursing homes 'performed well.' The study noted that “Michigan’s nursing home residents constituted a smaller proportion of overall COVID-19 deaths than the U.S. average.”

“I appreciate that you and your colleagues have policy disagreements with Governor Whitmer’s response to COVID-19,” Nessel wrote. “But an investigation by my office is not the mechanism to resolve those disagreements.”

State Senator Jim Runestad calls the AG’s decision “an abdication of responsibility.”

“It is an insult to every family member who lost a loved one to COVID-19 in a nursing home,” says Runestad. 

Steve Carmody has been a reporter for Michigan Public since 2005. Steve previously worked at public radio and television stations in Florida, Oklahoma and Kentucky, and also has extensive experience in commercial broadcasting.
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