LeDuff: Whitmer's Covid Science for Michigan Nursing Homes Is a Bunch of Stale Air

June 18, 2020, 10:17 PM by  Charlie LeDuff

Gov. Whitmer

Fewer things are more detrimental to a vice presidential run and a burgeoning TV career than having to explain away a few thousand dead elderly people.

Even so, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer is inexplicably sticking by her “science” and will continue to let Covid-19 patients inhabit the same nursing homes as old people who don't have the disease.

In a case of too-little-too-late, it was announced this week by emergency order that nursing home testing for the virus becomes mandatory June 29, exactly 100 days after Whitmer declared the original state of emergency.

We all studied a little science back in school. We learned that letting sick and dying people live near healthy but vulnerable people invariably leads to healthy but vulnerable people getting sick and dying.

That's just science.

Remember your history, too. History shows that hospitals were created to hold and treat sick and infected people so that they wouldn't make healthy but vulnerable people sick while living with them inside nursing homes.

That's just history.

But Whitmer sticks by her boneheaded decision to comingle the most vulnerable population inside the state of Michigan's long-term care facilities.

How's that worked so far? More than one-third of Covid deaths in the state occurred in the nursing homes  – and the share is surely to rise since the state can't seem to get the numbers straight.

The federal government counts Michigan's nursing home death toll at approximately 2,300. The state counts the total at about 2,000. Detroit counts the deaths at one nursing home to be 18, while the state reports it as zero.

Add to this the fact the state has not tabulated – and does not plan to publish -- the death count from other elderly assisted living facilities or adult foster care homes that were included in her original executive order, and as is required by federal law. 

That's just bad math.

Despite all this, the governor has doubled down, saying the comingling practice will continue as long as nursing homes have separate Covid-19 wings. 

Cross-contamination is common

People I know who work in these homes tell me that cafeteria and cleaning crews routinely cross through both the Covid and non-Covid wards, thus potentially cross-contaminating the entire facility. 

“We've made decisions based on the best science available in the moment,” Whitmer told reporter Rod Meloni of WDIV. “I don't know if you can ask anyone to do better than that.”

I would ask that the governor to do better than that, but the governor's staff no longer returns my requests for comment.

I would also ask the governor what science she quotes? What scientist thinks this to be a good practice? Whitmer, after all, seems to have cribbed the idea from New York State, which has been exposed in a recent report for not taking science into account.

New York forced nursing homes to admit Covid-19 patients March 25 to relieve the burden on the hospital system. 

Michigan followed suit three weeks later on April 15, thus avoiding the bill for taking care of the infected and infirm at the TCF and Suburban Collection field hospitals. 

Another science reminder

That very morning, Gov. Whitmer appeared on the "Today Show," defending her decision not to let citizens buy seeds.

The fact that we're cracking down on people traveling between homes or planting or landscaping or golfing for a couple more weeks is not going to meaningfully impact people's ability to do so,” she told the morning host. “But, the more people that are touching that gas pump is – we know that Covid-19 can last 72 hours on stainless steel – so think about the people that have to touch that gas pump.”

Apparently Madam Governor is unaware that kitchen counters in the nursing homes kitchens are also made of stainless steel. 

Again, science.

After media reports exposed that more than 6,000 people died in the Empire State's nursing homes, Gov. Andrew Cuomo abandoned the practice of pushing Covid positive patients into long-term care facilities.

Michigan is now one of the last – if not the last – states to allow the comingling of patients in nursing homes, says Sen. Pete Lucido, who is pushing a bill through the legislature to ban the practice.

“Her science is junk science,” said Lucido, a Macomb Republican. “Where is the data? Where are the reports? What did we accomplish by killing our family members?”

That, when it's all said and done, appears to be rocket science.

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