MIDLAND, Mich. — Michigan’s COVID-19 deaths in long-term care facilities is 42% higher than what the state previously reported, according to a report released today by Michigan’s Office of the Auditor General. Overall, 37% of all Michigan’s COVID-19 deaths can be traced back to long-term care facilities. This report demonstrates the state’s failure to accurately track and report the deaths of Michigan’s most vulnerable populations.
The Mackinac Center and Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Charlie LeDuff have spent nearly a year trying to get answers regarding these numbers. After the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services denied a Freedom of Information Act request from LeDuff seeking information about Michigan’s death count, the Center took legal action and won a lawsuit against the department. The state then released some of the information that was being requested by LeDuff.
From a limited review of those records, LeDuff and the Mackinac Center concluded that the state was not providing an accurate count of deaths in long-term care facilities. The Center testified in front of the Michigan House Oversight Committee in June 2021, requesting a full accounting of the state's COVID-19 long-term care deaths. A month later, it was announced that the auditor general would review those deaths.
The report provides a clearer picture of just how many long-term care residents died of COVID-19, including those in facilities that the state has never attempted to track, despite having access to the data. Recent attempts by the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services to diminish the credibility of the report fall short, especially since the department was off by 24% on the deaths that it was required by law to track.
“The level of incompetence that the state has shown is disgraceful,” said LeDuff. “The state admitted they were able to review these deaths to get a more accurate picture, but claimed it was too time consuming. The dead deserved better. We all deserved better.”
In 2020, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer implemented policies that directly impacted residents of long-term care facilities, including an executive order requiring long-term care facilities to accept COIVD-19 positive patients. The governor also implemented policies impacting the everyday lives of millions of Michiganders. The incomplete data given to the public means that Michiganders were not able to fully assess the true risks of COVID-19.
“We needed to know how many people were dying in all long-term care facilities so that the state could make good policy changes to protect our most vulnerable citizens,” said Delie. “It's ridiculous that it took a year, a lawsuit and an Auditor General investigation to get these numbers. Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel should reconsider her earlier refusal to investigate the state's COVID-19 death count.”
Learn more about the Mackinac Center's work on this issue here.
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