A third of Michigan’s COVID deaths are in nursing homes. Who is to blame?

Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, shown here with Lt. Gov. Garlin Gilchrist and Chief Medical Executive Dr. Joneigh Khaldun, faces an inquiry in Congress over policies that returned COVID patients to nursing homes. (Courtesy photo)

Connie Felstow died alone, infected and isolated in a hospital intensive care unit after contracting COVID-19 at the nursing facility she'd called home. 

When her husband of 43 years died less than a month later, doctors attributed it to an aortic aneurysm; relatives blamed a broken heart.

"Ron just kind of gave up when he lost Connie," said Michelle Strickler, Connie's sister. "So we've lost both, and it makes it even harder to accept."

Felstow lived at Medilodge of St. Clair, an eastern Michigan nursing facility that has admitted or readmitted 59 residents previously diagnosed with COVID-19, according to federal data, and has reported 94 total cases to date.

Strickler said local health officials repeatedly assured her the nursing home had protocols to protect her sister despite patient transfers. But two weeks after testing negative for COVID-19, Felstow, 68, tested positive in the home and died at a nearby hospital May 21. 

She is one of nearly 2,000 nursing home residents who have died from COVID-19 complications in Michigan, a tragedy that has prompted harsh criticism of Gov. Gretchen Whitmer and her policy that allowed recovering seniors back into facilities where they may have exposed peers.

Strickler can’t say for sure how her sister contracted the virus, but she assumes it was either spread by newly admitted residents or nursing home staff. 

“It just really sickens me to think that we put [Connie] in a facility that would put her at risk like this,” she said.

Michigan ranks among the top ten states for nursing home deaths, prompting a partisan congressional inquiry and bipartisan action in the state Legislature to create COVID-only facilities that would house infected nursing home residents. 

But experts say it is too soon to determine the effectiveness of strategies that Whitmer and other governors continue to modify in the middle of the global pandemic. While Michigan failed to protect its most vulnerable from the virus, new data show it is not alone.

As the coronavirus surges south, states such as Florida once heralded for protecting seniors by creating COVID-only facilities are seeing dramatic spikes in nursing home case counts. And without universal testing to ensure staffers are not transmitting the virus, experts say senior care facilities may remain at the mercy of the virus so long as it spreads outside their walls. 

“It's bleak everywhere,” said Brian Lee, executive director of Families for Better Care, a national nursing home watchdog group that advocates for policy and safety improvements. "There's not a single state I've watched that's doing things well when it comes to our loved ones who live in these facilities."

Hospital discharges

As of Wednesday, 7,582 Michigan nursing home residents had contracted COVID-19 and 1,986 had died since March, accounting for approximately 32 percent of all coronavirus deaths here. Michigan is not yet reporting data from assisted-living facilities and other long-term care centers that also house seniors.   

The virus hit Michigan earlier and harder than most states, and nursing home spread has slowed considerably here in recent months despite small recent upticks.

Whitmer closed nursing homes to visitors on March 13, three days after Michigan confirmed its first two cases of COVID-19. A month later, with hospital capacity dwindling in metro Detroit, she signed an order that required nursing homes to accept “medically stable” patients previously hospitalized for COVID-19, so long as the facilities had set up isolation units and had access to adequate personal protection equipment, which was in short supply at the time.


Elder care groups cautioned the governor against that approach, fearful hospital discharges would bring the virus into clean facilities and expose other residents to the virus. They wanted Michigan to use vacant buildings for the kind of COVID-only facilities Florida would soon open. 

But the Whitmer administration says it never enforced the hospital transfer rules. Instead, shortly after the governor’s order, the state told nursing homes to “postpone movement of COVID-19 affected residents, except as required for medical reasons” until they received further guidance, according to the Department of Health and Human Services. 

Michigan also designated some nursing homes as “regional hubs” that it determined were better equipped and able to care for COVID-positive residents that other facilities could not, an approach one leading senior care advocate called “reasonable” given the circumstances.

“The plan to serve COVID-positive individuals with dedicated units in regional hubs made sense to us, but our clear preference was to create facilities dedicated solely and exclusively to COVID care,” DeAnna Mitchell of LeadingAge Michigan, a senior advocacy group, told lawmakers in June. 

Neither elder care advocates nor the state health department say they are aware of any nursing home that was forced to admit a COVID-positive resident against its will. 

But federal data show many facilities did take them in.

As of July 5, Michigan nursing homes had admitted or readmitted patients previously diagnosed with COVID-19 more than 2,750 times, according to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. Only about a quarter of those transfers were into one of the state’s 21 regional hubs. The numbers may be elevated because some residents were transferred multiple times. 

States including New York and New Jersey, also hit early and hard by the virus, adopted and enforced similar transfer policies in March and April. New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s administration this month released a 33-page report that analyzed the strategy and attributed high death tolls there to spread by infected staffers, not hospital discharges. 

The Whitmer administration hasn’t yet completed the same kind of in-depth analysis but has enlisted the University of Michigan’s Center for Health and Research Transformation to evaluate the state’s hub model. The team will also assess best practices and alternative approaches from other states, said health spokesperson Bob Wheaton.

Whitmer has defended the state’s early efforts, saying it acted on the best science available at the time. Earlier this month, she created a new task force to advise the state on future nursing home policy.

The governor “has been committed to protecting nursing home residents” and followed federal guidance by establishing regional hubs and isolation units, said spokesperson Tiffany Brown. “She's worked tirelessly to procure tests and PPE to keep seniors safe, with little to no assistance from federal authorities.”

Legislative response

Whitmer revised her initial nursing home order in May, and again in June and July, to steer more COVID-positive residents toward the 21 nursing homes now designated as regional hubs. Those facilities are prioritized for PPE shipments, received $5,000 per dedicated bed to cover set-up costs and qualify for an additional $200 per day for each patient they take in. 

Under current policy, hospitals cannot discharge nursing home residents until they test negative for COVID. They can then be transferred to a regional hub or the facility where they previously resided, provided that home is capable of isolating infected residents. If a nursing home cannot isolate COVID patients, it must transfer them to a regional hub or hospital.

Sen. Peter Lucido, R-Shelby Township, has called for investigations into Gov. Gretchen Whitmer's nursing home orders, saying they "resulted in the illness and death of many of Michigan’s elderly and infirm residents.” (Courtesy photo)


Other states like Florida, where a total of 2,255 long-term care facility residents and staffers had died as of last week, have opened COVID-only centers to house nursing home residents who contract the virus. Massachusetts, where more than 3,400 nursing home residents have died, announced a similar strategy in March but abandoned plans to empty out existing nursing homes for that use because of outbreaks during the resident transfer process.

Michigan's Republican-led Legislature is pushing the state to move in a similar direction. The House and Senate last week approved legislation that would require the state to operate at least one COVID-only facility for nursing home residents in each of healthcare eight regions by September.  

The legislation, which 17 of 51 House Democrats and all Republicans voted for, would also require the state to evaluate its existing regional hub model and provide a detailed report to lawmakers by mid-August. Whitmer may veto the measure after setting up a bipartisan advisory board to study next steps. 

State Sen. Peter Lucido, R-Shelby Township, sponsored the legislation and requested state and federal investigations in May of Whitmer’s nursing home orders. 

In a statement at the time, he said the policy endangered a “vulnerable population and their caregivers to the very virus which we had hoped to protect them,” adding that he believes the “reckless and negligent policy .. resulted in the illness and death of many of Michigan’s elderly and infirm residents.”

Whitmer is expected to veto the legislation. It is “based on the false premise that isolation units within existing facilities are somehow insufficient — a claim entirely unsupported by the data,” Brown said. “Instead of protecting seniors, this bill requires the state to create COVID detention centers."

Lucido and other critics have questioned why Michigan did not use temporary field hospitals at the TCF Center in Detroit or the Suburban Collection Showplace in Novi to house recovering seniors at the height of the pandemic. And state emails show hotels forced to close amid the pandemic had offered up empty space.

The state gave strong consideration to using the TCF Center for seniors before closing it in early May, said Wheaton. But "after a thorough review, including consultation with multiple medical experts, the state concluded that keeping the field hospital open to serve nursing patients did not make sense because of the physical limitations of the facility," he said. 

TCF did not have mobility supports, like hallway handrails, or medical equipment like X-ray machines and CT scanners typically available in nursing homes, he said. And it was designed for short-term care, not the type of long-term skilled care that many seniors require. 

"Alternative care sites were by their nature meant to be last resorts," Wheaton said. "They were not designed to provide, and did not provide, the standard of care one could expect at a nursing home or a hospital." 

A national tragedy

As of July 12, more than 38,000 nursing home residents had died from COVID-19 nationwide, according to federal data published by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services. 

That was about 29 percent of all COVID-19 deaths in the United States and does not include data from other long-term care facilities. Nursing homes had reported more than 142,000 confirmed cases, along with another 90,000 suspected cases.

The federal data has flaws — it is two weeks behind so does not reflect recent surges in the south, and CMS is reporting fewer deaths in Michigan than the state health department — but it is the most complete data set available for comparison purposes. 

Michigan ranked eighth among all states with the highest number of known nursing home resident deaths. And it ranked 11th in nursing home deaths per 1,000 residents. Michigan has recorded more nursing home deaths than Ohio and fewer than Illinois, but the states are comparable when considering those deaths as a share of total population.

It's too soon to say what states – if any – implemented policies that effectively protected nursing homes because there hasn't been a thorough national evaluation, said Tricia Neuman, a senior vice president at the Kaiser Family Foundation,  a nonprofit focused on public health. 

"Obviously the states that had early outbreaks were hit hard in nursing homes and long-term care facilities," she said. "The federal government, states and nursing homes were caught flat-footed and didn't have the systems and the supplies and the staff and testing in place to meet the crisis."

Critics of Michigan's nursing home response, including Sen. Jim Runestad, R-White Lake, have praised Florida, where Gov. Ron DeSantis created COVID-only facilities for nursing home residents. There are currently 19 such facilities in Florida with more than 1,200 beds.

But Florida has seen nursing home cases explode in recent weeks as the virus surges through southern states, a development linked to both staff infections and increased testing.

Confirmed COVID-19 cases nearly doubled in Florida and Texas long-term care facilities between June 24 and July 9, according to a Kaiser Family Foundation analysis of federal data. By comparison, Michigan nursing home cases rose by 3 percent over the same span.

"I'm reluctant to say if something works or doesn't work, because we don't really know," Neuman said. "It's clearly hard to keep residents and staff safe when there's a large outbreak in the community, even among mostly younger people."

Testing is key

Emerging research suggests community spread of COVID-19 outside the walls of a nursing home is typically the largest predictor of new cases inside. 

Harvard professor David Grabowski, a leading health care policy researcher, argued nursing homes are incapable of keeping COVID-19 away from residents if it is widespread in the areas where staff members live and work.  

In a June analysis, Graboskwi and other researchers determined that the locations of nursing home were most likely to explain COVID-19 outbreaks, not traditional quality metrics such as federal facility grades or prior infection control citations. 

Grabowski and other experts say testing, in particular, is a critical tool for protecting nursing homes. Daily on-site testing can prevent infected staff from entering the facilities and identify residents who contracted the virus and need to be isolated or transferred. 

The federal government this month announced plans to send COVID-19 testing units to all skilled nursing facilities in the United States, but it's not clear when those supplies will arrive and if facilities in states like Florida will be properly equipped to handle the southern surge.

Because COVID-19 can be spread by asymptomatic carriers, including staff, "nursing homes will not be able to reopen until they have access to accurate and rapid COVID-19 surveillance testing," Grabowski wrote this month in a medical journal commentary. 

While Michigan struggled to provide testing and PPE to nursing homes in April, federal data shows access to those resources has improved.

All 437 Michigan nursing homes that reported data to CMS on July 5 said they had at least some N-95 or surgical masks, and only 12 said they did not have a one-week supply of either.

Just two nursing homes – Kith Haven in Flint and Windemere Park in Warren – said they did not have on-site testing capabilities.

There's not yet enough data to show whether Florida's policy of creating COVID-only nursing home facilities was "a difference maker" for seniors, said Lee, of Families for Better Care. But the situation there is "horrible" and "getting worse," he told Bridge. 

"Politicians can talk about the types of facilities, the transfers and all that stuff, but without testing, they're running blind,” Lee said. “These facilities are operating in the dark and have no clue who has the virus in their buildings."

Whitmer has acknowledged that, if she had a “time machine,” she might go back and revise some of the nursing home decisions she made when the coronavirus hit Michigan. She revised her initial order in May, adopted new testing rules in June and created a bipartisan task force to advise the state on future actions by the end of August. 

States like Michigan and New York with large nursing home death counts were on the front lines of the policy debate. Hit harder and earlier than most parts of the country, they were forced to adopt unproven strategies without clear direction from the federal government, Neuman said.

"When the virus struck rapidly, people were dying very quickly and governors were unable to get tests and PPE to bring into their state for their hospitals and nursing facilities,” she told Bridge. “There was a quick learning curve, which happened as people were getting really sick and dying."

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Kevin Grand
Mon, 07/27/2020 - 7:12am

The answer here should be obvious.

The woman who signed her name at the bottom of the XO "ordering" it in the first place.

It's public record AND just as good as a murder confession.

Mon, 07/27/2020 - 10:32am

The ONLY thing obvious is that you did not read the article.

Mon, 07/27/2020 - 11:11am

Actually the article explains that she did not ever ‘force’ nursing homes to take COVID patients. But facilities did take them in. The only other option, once a patient is released from the hospital, is /was to send them to a hub facility for COVID patients, which we had few of. These people were not healthy enough to go home. Isolation units were few and far between.
I have a family member who works in skilled care, so here’s some other info:
Skilled-care facilities were in desperate need of PPE when the virus hit in March and April. My relative was literally driving all over the state to chase down supplies. That, plus not knowing then that many cases were asymptomatic AND contagious (remember back then? We thought that if you didn’t have symptoms, like a fever, you weren’t infectious?) made it really hard to protect people. And there was literally often nowhere else to send COVID patients that were not sick enough to stay in the hospital, but were still not well enough to go home.

So a lot of factors came into play here. We know some things better now, and in the future will probably have to go to a hub system if we get hit hard again.

So here’s the thing—when Great-grandpa survives COVID, gets released from the hospital but is still too weak to walk or go to the bathroom or eat on his own, where would you send him—back to the place he lived before he got sick, and they care about him and his health issues, or try to find a temporary hub facility where he’s one more sick guy in a line of beds? If they even have room for him?
Those were the kinds of decisions that Whitmer and the health community had to face three months ago. And we knew far less about COVID than we do now, so yes she’d do some things differently. The science keeps changing.
But if you want to blame the governor, go ahead. Everyone likes simple answers to complicated questions.

Kevin Grand
Mon, 07/27/2020 - 12:13pm

And yet, she still wrote and signed the order in the first place.

Dennis Bierlein
Fri, 10/09/2020 - 4:21pm

Have you even read her Executive Orders? You present the actions of all involved parties as if they just ignored the illness. Her order required homes to set up isolation wings and if unable to do that, to discharge them to "regional hubs" or covid special homes.
This isn't much different than the legislative bill introduced 5 months after March.

William C. Plumpe
Mon, 07/27/2020 - 12:44pm

I agee 1000%.
In March the virus was almost completely unknown and neither process nor supplies were in place to adequately deal with the emerging pandemic. The threat of a serious worldwide virus outbreak was for real and unprecedented. The Governor did not deny or dismiss the virus threat or try try to bs it away. She took action and made decisions based upon best information available which was scant and untested at the beginning. She acted in the most reasonable and prudent manner possible analyzing solutions and balancing ease and speed of implementation with cost and safety and health effects to come up with the most viable solution.
And answer me this---Where would you put Covid patients not sick enough to stay in hospitals which were near or at capacity but too sick to go home? Remember too you're in the midst of a public health emergency and don't have the time or effort to deal with Washington. You need an on the ground solution ASAP. I believe the Governor did her due diligence and came up with the best soltion under the circumstances. And remember hindsight is always 100% correct and a well thought out soltion from a number of difficult choices is better than doing nothing and hoping the problem will go away when the weather changes.

RIP Grandpa
Wed, 07/29/2020 - 2:01pm

What if that was a hardship for families? The nursing homes assured us that they could care for the patients. Why were we not to believe them?

Kevin Grand
Thu, 07/30/2020 - 4:21pm

Because the numbers at the time had already shown that the elderly were THE at-risk group.

Note: I did not say the entire population was included.

Plenty of blame
Mon, 07/27/2020 - 5:30pm

Kevin also fails to mention that there was and is still short supplies of PPE and price gouging was/is prevalent. Some unscrupulous businesses are even selling defective items. Lastly Trump failed and continues to fail at invoking the Defense Production Act, despite providing free money to companies to stay afloat doing nothing.

Kevin Grand
Tue, 07/28/2020 - 9:34am

Now, why would there be any "shortage"???

Hint: Flip over any box of masks to see where is actually came from.

A. Bellows
Mon, 07/27/2020 - 8:07am

Whitmer has blood on her hands.

Mon, 07/27/2020 - 10:36am

Is that GOP humor? You should read the article and comment on it. Find the parts that support your accusations or get some better material because that bumpersticker response isn't funny.

Tom Backus
Tue, 07/28/2020 - 9:21am

How so? That is ridiculous. She has from day one taken this pandemic more seriously than most leaders.

Mon, 07/27/2020 - 8:10am

It should be pretty obvious who is at fault - The anti-whitmer protestors who were at the capitol building a couple months ago! Also anyone else who disagrees with our fearless leader! Disagreement with her supreme intellect are the cause for all of our problems! It definitely does NOT have anything to do with blindly shutting down our entire state and decimating our economy instead of focusing resources on protecting the only group at any risk (the over-65 group)!!!!

Mon, 07/27/2020 - 10:39am

Why are you still lamenting the shutdown? It's even gaining traction in the Biblebelt.

Mon, 07/27/2020 - 12:14pm

What's the Bible got to do with it?

Bridge Member Too
Mon, 07/27/2020 - 12:20pm

Snoopy and Bridge Editor, I find this comment to be anti-Christian and discriminatory based on religion. I don't see how religion matters in the relevant discussion on how Gov Whitmer handled the nursing home Covid situation.

middle of the mit
Mon, 07/27/2020 - 3:27pm

I would like to know how someone pointing out what is happening in an area that is Self Described as the Bible belt is offensive to religion or Christianity.

They were just pointing out that the same thing is happening in those States. That is not offensive or derogatory.


Rusty Belt
Mon, 07/27/2020 - 5:33pm

Bible Belt is a term chiefly associated with an informal region in the Southern United States in which socially conservative evangelical Protestantism plays a strong role in society and politics, and church attendance across the denominations is generally higher than the nation's average.

Leslie Watson
Mon, 07/27/2020 - 8:59am

Hindsight is better than foresight.

It is obvious to me that States need the federal institutions to provide the nation with pandemic preparedness. The federal failure forced the States to fend for themselves in getting supplies to treat and control infections.

Tricia Neuman, a senior vice president at the Kaiser Family Foundation, a nonprofit focused on public health stated: "The federal government, states and nursing homes were caught flat-footed and didn't have the systems and the supplies and the staff and testing in place to meet the crisis." Even now, "there hasn't been a thorough national evaluation."

The future effectiveness in decision making requires evaluating the complex issues and necessary resources needed for recovering patients.

A key component to control infection is testing. Since transmission is rapid, testing results need to be rapid, too. As the article states, nursing homes need daily on-site testing to prevent infected staff from entering the facilities. Additionally, daily testing will identify the residents who contracted the virus and need to be isolated or transferred.

Mon, 07/27/2020 - 10:52am

Trump says we can reduce the cases by not testing. Only good federal government involvement, please. Trump has done more harm than good.

Thu, 09/17/2020 - 10:09am

To the guy who said hindsight is better...the obama administration depleted the Federal reserves of all the items needed for this pandemic while dealing with the swine flu and bird flu...they didn't replenish it. So they are complicit as well. And Whitmer vacillated between...we are independent and the feds can't tell us what to do, to the evil feds aren't helping us. Whitmer also waited a month before opening up the applications for federal help with the PPP for small business...she is terrible. and now she wants to to keep Michigan under "emergency" for more months? First it was "to flatten the curve" then it was so many less deaths per outbreaks, then it was who knows??? The woman is power hungry

Lakeshore fan
Mon, 07/27/2020 - 9:40am

Since our governor decided to govern on her own, these deaths are on her and her alone!

Mom with daughters
Mon, 07/27/2020 - 5:35pm

So we should do what Peter Lucido wants? Hell no! No credibility there!

Wed, 07/29/2020 - 2:04pm

I just can't look at him.

Lory Hanson
Wed, 07/29/2020 - 2:06pm

Why is he still in office?

William C. Plumpe
Tue, 07/28/2020 - 1:45pm

Isn't Trump the one who refused to set a national standard of care and dumped the leadership responsibility on the States? The States are just following Trump's non decision decision. Total failure of leadership on Trump's part. Take the heat and don't pass the buck.
Or step aside and let someone with experience make an honest attempt to solve the problem in a way that has nothing to do with Trump's ego.

Fri, 08/28/2020 - 9:31am

One: It IS the state's responsibly
Two: If Trump did take over for the states, he would be accused of over-reaching.
This is maddening how people can't take responsibility for their own actions; yet LOVE to blame everyone else - especially the president.

George Hagenauer
Mon, 07/27/2020 - 9:40am

The comments and the article take for granted that there are no core problems with our current approach to nursing homes and long term care options under heavily for profit free market system. When ongoing weaknesses are part of the problem. Both the nursing home and child care markets are staffed by low wage workers. As a result there is not a backlog of skilled workers to serve as substitutes. My mother due to dementia was in a relatively good home near my house that I could visit daily. I can distinctly remember the day I helped a substitute worker hired on a daily basis as a fill in for a sick staff person jump start her car which was essentially her home as she didn't earn enough to rent. So if you get testing going and a bunch of staff need to be quarantined- where do you get the replacements? The virus has shown that we need to fix our health care, child care and nursing home care systems as well as some other basic support structures in our economy that help us prepare for the next new virus which is sadly most likely to occur.

Mon, 07/27/2020 - 9:52am

It’s very easy to critique Whitmer, and apparently very difficult to remember events that happened just a short time ago.
Michigan unfortunately, had the Covid19 patient explosion early and like NY - and didn’t have decent guidance from Washington. Our leaders were flying blind into the storm and had to figure it out alone. Remember, we were all told - the virus was difficult to catch and was like the flu and facemasks weren’t needed. Pretty much anyone of any age, needed rehab after being on the ventilator for weeks. They had to go somewhere to receive that card. A “field” hospital would not fill that need. They had to have healthcare staff in place and ready to hit the ground running. The only criticism Whitmer deserves is not shutting down earlier.

Death Camps
Mon, 07/27/2020 - 10:20am

The Governor made the order to put sick people into nursing homes, so it is entirely her fault.

Make all of the excuses you want, but she was in charge, she gave the orders so the blame is hers to own. Will she own it? Probably not because she's too busy preening and auditioning for a position in Biden's administration. She's taking full credit for all of the lives that she supposedly saved, but never mentions all of the nursing home residents who died as a direct result of her orders.

Remember when people blamed Snyder for the Flint water crisis because he was in charge at the time? These nursing home deaths are the EXACT same situation. The person in charge (Whitmer) and the person who gave the orders (Whitmer) are responsible for over 2,000 deaths. Why no outrage about these deaths?

middle of the mit
Mon, 07/27/2020 - 3:54pm

[[[Remember when people blamed Snyder for the Flint water crisis because he was in charge at the time? These nursing home deaths are the EXACT same situation. The person in charge (Whitmer) and the person who gave the orders (Whitmer) are responsible for over 2,000 deaths. Why no outrage about these deaths?]]]

Nice way to try to bothsides something. Could you tell us how a pandemic that no one has control over is the same as omitting one chemical that keeps lead from seeping into water, voluntarily, doing so to save money?

And if it is all on Governor Gretchen, what do you have to say to the Republican Governors who have had the benefit of hindsight with what the economic drivers of the nation had to deal with, and are having the same and worse problems with their nursing homes?

Ohhhh stubborn, stubborn facts.

The only way to stop it from coming in is to isolate all workers and anyone that comes in can not go anywhere else. How do you then get supplies? What is your solution?

Will business owners be held responsible if their business allows the spread to others? Will you hold them accountable or will you hold the Governor accountable because she didn't spell out what business was supposed to do to keep their people safe, even though they have been saying they are the experts?

Where will the finger pointing end? Who will have the buck at the end of the passing?

Facts matter
Mon, 07/27/2020 - 5:37pm

Another one who didn't read the article.

GOP Death Culture
Mon, 07/27/2020 - 5:47pm

Think back to March when Republicans thought letting old people die would be patriotic, you know sacrifice their lives to save the economy.
A growing chorus of conservatives had started arguing that older adults should voluntarily return to work to save the country from financial ruin. A far-right rallying cry: Older Americans should volunteer to work

Jim C
Mon, 07/27/2020 - 10:50am

Interesting story, but Michigan was hit hard and early. Note Michigan is seventh in the country for total covid19 deaths. So the numbers in nursing homes are not so high comparing to the overall population in Michigan, given the virus attacks the elderly more whether they are in nursing homes or not. The nursing home owners have shown a certain greediness to increase patients without taking proper precautions like testing an an monitoring their staff. The order was not enforced and only applied where nursing homes could follow CDC guidelines.

A more interesting story would be what percentage of people getting home care died. A lot of low level healthcare workers caring for seniors worked even when they were sick because they needed the money. However, this is very new and rather than pointing fingers, we need to honestly look at our collective failures and learn how we can improve. This may last for three years and then there may be a new threat. It's just like tackling invasive species in our Great Lakes.

Please don't cite Florida for anything because the numbers there are totally cooked.

Mon, 07/27/2020 - 11:01am

The article quotes 1,986 cases. Yet, the current Bridge Nursing home deaths NOW show 2,002 Residents and Staff at 22. Two weeks ago the total death was 2,038 combined Residents and Staff. However, last week the chart showed first 1,986, then it showed 1,973, with 21 Staff Deaths. Someone is cooking the books, realized they got caught and "re-totaled" the deaths. It's either that, or the folks are now Zombies and are being counted as the living-dead.

Mon, 07/27/2020 - 11:02am

Seems to me the Republican legislatures are pushing the Whitmer is guilty of killing Grandma narrative because they know Trump’s leadership has consisted of claims of the virus magically disappearing in April, injecting bleach and pitting states against each other. Whitmer’s administration made mistakes, but the lockdown wasn’t a mistake. The lack of transparency in regards to contact tracing is where the legislature should be looking. We need to know how many new cases are out of quarantine and how many are community transmission.

Mon, 07/27/2020 - 5:42pm

I just realized that maybe the nursing homes were following Trump's medical advice of giving patients bleach and sticking lights down their lungs. Could that be the cause of the deaths? I wish he would stop giving dangerous medical advice.

Mon, 07/27/2020 - 11:26am

It was quite obvious early in the pandemic, that any site with tight quarters was ideal location for transmitting the virus. Let's see, nursing home in Seattle (February) was one of our nations earliest incidents where Covid cases spread at 'care' facilities. It was also known in early March that people with underlying conditions and over 65 are at high risk. Hence, common sense tells anyone not to put covid patients with people in 'care' facilities? In addition, some of the nursing homes wouldn't allow workers to wear masks until the 2nd week of April, because it might scare the patients ... who is investigating this?
Sure there is a lot of blame to go around and debate about national vs state controls, but the bottom-line here in Michigan is that Gov. Whitmer ordered that covid patients to nursing homes under her State of Emergency order.

Au contraire
Mon, 07/27/2020 - 5:50pm

A healthcare facility taking proper precautions was the best place for seniors to be.

Mon, 07/27/2020 - 12:37pm

This is just one more article of "who's to blame" for something that everyone from scientists, local leaders, the CDC, WHO have been grappling with in an attempt to try and work without adequate testing, PPE and a highly contagious virus. One that many Americans, including Michiganders, are dismissing as "the flu", refusing to wear masks, believing it'll miraculously disappear, or it's a hoax. How about the "who's to blame" starts at the White House and just go from there.

Common sense
Wed, 07/29/2020 - 4:25pm

So what does our governor say, “The buck doesn’t stop here”?

Daniel 74
Mon, 07/27/2020 - 1:57pm

Here's what we learned from Covid- 19 the world doesn't revolve around your or my health.
It revolves around the almighty dollar. Look at the cases in the first few weeks of June, their on a downward trend. Then the restrictions were lifted. Buisinesses reopened and they jumped back up. The lockdown was working. But that doesn't matter as much as money. That will be the real lesson of Covid-19. We could have stopped it but are greed for the almighty dollar was too great are ability to make sacrifices to our freedom for our community, state, and nation too small.

America Shamed
Mon, 07/27/2020 - 5:56pm

I know. Greed is the problem. America is the prime example of how not to act.

Sat, 08/01/2020 - 11:32pm

Daniel....please refer to the Covid Tracking Project presented by The Atlantic. Though this is a claim you would like to be true, it can not be proven. What reason(s) you have for posing a personal belief as a fact, I do not care. What we can factually say based on the known data we have is that as testing has increased, so too has Covid case load. Observe the graphs for the state of Michigan. The curves for testing and new cases are virtually identical.

Michigan Observer
Mon, 07/27/2020 - 3:08pm

The best answer was demonstrated by the owner of a nursing home in Connecticut. He immediately leased a number of RVs and told the staff that if they worked there, they slept there. He completely isolated his facility and did not lose a single paient.

Mon, 07/27/2020 - 5:57pm

I agree, but what about the families of the employees? What if they were also needed at home?

Mon, 07/27/2020 - 4:34pm

I sense that each of us has to ponder "What would I have done if I were making decisions at that time based on info available at that time"? Where would I have put my sick senior if hospitals were full and I couldn't do or afford home care myself? And the facilities were welcoming my loved one to be with them? I say, let's move on and get the testing and equipment we need now and learn from the past to create better situations for our beloved seniors. Let's also pay workers better salaries who attend seniors and keep them safe with good equipment. I had a lot of experience with seniors and staff attending them in the past. I sense that this situation has no easy answers.

Jane K
Wed, 07/29/2020 - 2:15pm

I agree, the situation is only going to get worse during the coming flu season. Let's learn something and do better. I can't believe people are still yapping about this being no different than normal seasonal flu! It seems obvious that we also need to provide better mental healthcare to people.

Tue, 07/28/2020 - 6:25am

Roughly, 68% of nursing homes are now for profit. Research shows, for profit owned nursing facilities reflect the gross reality that comfort and medical care is second and profits foremost, stakeholders pockets number one. The horrible reality is the United States, for profit healthcare facilities gamble with the care and comfort of patients. Gains and loses depends on short staffing, grossly underpaid healthcare employees, purposely denied adequate supplies necessary for proper care of patients. Moving costly patients out to open for new, high return patients in. Insurance companies choose to ensure corporate profits, over the comfort and recovery of humans lives, reduce and deny reimbursement based on the number of days a patient is a resident.

Matthew Ryan
Wed, 07/29/2020 - 2:19pm

Sad, but true. Been there, done that with elderly relatives. Is there anyway to find the ones that are not-for-profit? I have yet to find a listing.

Tom Backus
Tue, 07/28/2020 - 9:18am

Who's to blame? Really? Covid-19 is to blame. So a novel corona virus comes into our world and you are looking for blame. It was new, it was unknown, it has been devastating. I don't for a minute think anyone was trying to do anything but look out for these people. No one was prepared for this. No one should be blamed. Finger pointing doesn't help this problem. The virus is everywhere and it seems logical that facilities that hold groups of people like nursing homes, assisted living, jails, prisons, and schools would be places where it could thrive and spread. Let's focus on how to learn from, deal with, and treat people going forward.

Tue, 07/28/2020 - 10:59am

Tom Backus, you make a good concise argument for future measures when Covid comes back. Best metaphor for me is that Covid is a steaming pile of dog doody on the sidewalk. Passerbys may want to clean it up but aren't prepared. There is just no way to pick it up by the clean end and that's where we were when patients had to be discharged from hospitals to make room for the new patients coming into the emergency room. Everyone criticizes but no one offers any solutions except for the nursing home administrator who got trailers for his staff and suffered no cases. We still don't have a vaccine for HIV so, despite Warp Speed, it may be years before we get one for Covid. We are goig to have to come to a reckoning for what parameters will be chosen as tolerable limits for morbidity and mortality to keep the economy open as much as possible.
The virus will take the old and the weak first. That is what infectious disease does and all the measures we come up with aren't going to make change that law of nature. If we had PPE available and a staff trained well enough to use it (nursing homes are not acute care) the results may
have been very different, but the feds had walked away from the problem leaving governors to fend for themselves. We had the perfect storm for failure and now states that had plenty of time to get stock of PPE, create mask laws, close the places that we KNOW flame the numbers....well, they just didn't do it and look where we are while Michigan has not had to re-close despite tourist season.

Jeremy P
Wed, 07/29/2020 - 2:26pm

Well put. Moreover we could start by training hiring more nursing home staff and paying them better. These people are needed and pay taxes. Instead we just give people money for nothing, while nursing home staff are under-trained and poorly paid.

Elsie Anne
Wed, 07/29/2020 - 3:34am

I've supported most of Governor Whitmer's COVID-19 policies, but the decision to place infected people in nursing homes that also contained non-infected people never made any sense to me (and has been heavily criticized by my right-wing relatives.) Nursing home operators may have convinced the governor that they had the infection control mechanisms in place to prevent spread, but anyone who has visited a nursing home recently knows that the reality is much different. Nursing homes are almost always understaffed, and staff members constantly zip in and out of rooms with barely enough time to fling off their gloves on the way out. Nursing homes should never have been warehouse facilities for COVID patients except where "COVID-only" facilities could be maintained. The governor who protected us so carefully in so many other ways dropped the ball on this one.

Emily C
Wed, 07/29/2020 - 2:29pm

I understand, but the buck stops with the nursing homes who put money over people, be they patients or staff.

John F Brennan
Wed, 07/29/2020 - 11:16am

I will, until it is proven otherwise, assume that all of the authorities and leadership including all national and state executives regardless of political party have been and continue to act in good faith acting on the best data available and in honest hopes of minimizing the damage caused by this contagion.

There is precious little reliable information available now, and exponentially less available in the past.

Were their mistakes made, certainly. Are we learning, yes. Can we do anything to stop the spread of the virus eventually to and through all of Michigan and the world, no, not with the present or even hoped for scientific advances.

The blame game may make some feel better emotionally, allow venting against personas previously disliked or detested for other reasons, but is actually irrelevant to the reality we all must face.

I am disappointed in our society which fractionated as opposed to unifying against a common enemy. This does not bode well for Michigan or the Republic, but it is not too late to learn.

Wed, 07/29/2020 - 2:36pm

Unfortunately we are divided, but that's because of Trump who wants us divided. It's his strategy to get hired. He doesn't want the job. He just likes the title. No one can argue otherwise. I have never seen any president flip and flop so much literally within minutes. He claims he knows more than experts with decades of experience serving multiple presidents of both parties. Sorry, but you know it's true.

Wed, 07/29/2020 - 1:59pm

Sounds like Abbott and Costello bit. "WHO is to blame? That's right!" We could use some levity during this nightmare.

Study to delay ...
Sun, 08/02/2020 - 12:53pm

Has Gov. Whitmer shared her "best science" with anybody including Bridge? How about naming experts? When her decisions from the ether blow up, she says she'll study some aspect of it (and release results in her second term?).

Lauren Veal
Tue, 10/13/2020 - 1:40am

This is from a healthcare worker (lpn) who works in a nursing home pov on my own personal experience working in a facility with a history of COVID 19 cases popping up among residents/staff:
The rules are changing constantly. One minute we are wearing the same PPE room to room the next we are only wearing masks and putting on gowns assigned to each room. We are horribly understaffed, even though our census (number of residents) is low, corporate is greedy and thinks we can make due with one aide and one nurse per 20 or so residents. This imo leads to cutting corners with the rules due to lack of time for the work needing to be done, passing meds, call lights etc. Not to mention the idea is to keep staff working on their same units to prevent more potential spread, but we can't due to staffing issues people are bounced to different halls every week because we have to go where were needed. Yes we get tested every week, both staff and residents but the results never come in fast enough to matter. We're testing without even having the results from the week before! Even when staff do test positive and are told to stay home, we don't get paid for time missed. So of course this forces workers to hide symptoms we still have bills to pay! Corporate could honestly care less about their staff. We've been in staffing crisis for months now and to fix issues with staffing were forced, yes MANDATED to stay past our shift end time even when some of us have already worked 12 hours to fix the staffing issues. Even staff who have tested positive get asked to come in as long they're asymptomatic. This has led to a lot of frustration, people quitting left and right, we aren't paid what we should be paid for the work we do in these facilities, nor being on the front lines for this virus. We're overworked, underpaid, and frustrated. Our monitoring unit is a joke. We've only had a sheet of plastic in between a COVID positive resident and the other residents. I agree COVID positive residents should not be readmitted with us and go to a designated place to keep the other residents safe, or better yet in home care. Everyone calls us heroes but we are not treated like heroes from the higher ups of all these nursing homes.

Thu, 01/14/2021 - 7:06pm

They are convicting all responsible for flint water of manslaughter, so they should be convicted of 1st degree murder for their response of COVID they knew elderly were most vulnerable